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"High housing costs [in the Washington, D.C., area] have surprisingly little to do with marble countertops and things that go inside buildings. They have much more to do with what’s outside the building: land," reports Ally Schweitzer.
Land in the area averages $1.2 million an acre, and this is the main factor driving up housing costs in the region. And zoning is largely behind the housing shortage that has made land so valuable. "In the D.C. region, vast swaths of residential areas are zoned exclusively for single-family homes, the most space-intensive and costly form of housing," notes Schweitzer.
Construction costs have also increased and added to the rising housing costs. But people are willing to pay these prices, making affordable housing even more important for the region. "Affluent singles and couples drive a lot of housing demand in the region, especially in D.C., and they compete for homes that could otherwise go to lower-income families," says Schweitzer.