Housing Scarcity in Rural America

With the growth of ‘Zoom towns’ and the sharply rising demand for small-town living, rural communities are facing pressure to maintain housing affordability for long-time residents and boost housing production.

2 minute read

April 22, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

“The COVID-19 pandemic changed the ways many people work and live. One of these changes has been an increase in the number of people who are trading in life in a big city for small-town living, including higher-income earners who work from home.” As a result, rural communities are struggling to keep up with housing demand, pushing prices higher. Margaret Gallagher outlines steps rural communities can take to preserve housing affordability as demand rises.

“As rural populations begin to grow, many communities are investing in renovating empty industrial or commercial buildings into upscale multifamily living. Such investments will expand the housing market, providing additional housing options, and taking the stress off the market, but these redevelopment projects don’t typically include affordable units for low-income households,” writes Gallagher. “By investing in the restoration of its current housing stock and by turning single-family homes into multi-family units where needed, rural communities can address pre-existing housing repair needs while also providing additional affordable housing units to meet new demands.”

Another mechanism growing in popularity, “Community land trusts have also been used effectively to acquire and reserve existing developable land and even existing vacant housing to ensure it remains affordable for future use.”

The article lists additional strategies for improving housing affordability and preserving housing stock in rural areas, such as providing density bonuses, reducing barriers to development, and encouraging a diverse range of housing options that include mobile homes and multifamily buildings.

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