New Research Blames Affluent Suburbs for Housing Crisis

Small, often wealthy enclaves build far less multifamily housing than their larger counterparts, exacerbating the dearth of affordable housing near big cities and job centers.

2 minute read

July 12, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of large houses in large yards surrounded by trees in Palo Alto, California

Palo Alto, California attempted to skirt state housing mandates through historic preservation designations. | E. M. Winterbourne / Adobe Stock

In an article in The Conversation, Paul G. Lewis and Nicholas J. Marantz explain how small, wealthy suburbs contribute to California’s housing crisis by resisting state efforts to mandate or encourage more housing construction.

The authors used census tract data to examine multifamily housing development in cities of various sizes between 2008 and 2018. “Over that span, according to our statistical estimates, a typical neighborhood-size census tract located within a city of 100,000 residents saw the development of 46 more new multifamily units than an otherwise very similar census tract located within a smaller city of 30,000 residents.”

This data reveals that smaller towns are less likely to add sorely needed apartments and other multifamily housing types. When the analysis was expanded to the entire country, the pattern was similar. Wealthy suburbs, often on the outskirts of large cities, fight new housing development; new housing development, if it happens, is pushed farther out, extending commutes and aggravating sprawl.

The authors explain that the nature of small cities makes them prone to political interests that skew toward the status quo. “To be sure, many homeowners in big cities have similar worries. But in a large, diverse city, anti-growth voices often are counterbalanced by pro-housing interests active in city politics, such as large employers, developers, construction unions or affordable-housing nonprofits.”

The article lists the possible mandates and incentives states have implemented to reduce barriers to housing construction, but, as evidenced by Silicon Valley cities, NIMBY groups will attempt creative ways to skirt regulations. In one ambitious example from Oregon, “Voters created and then strengthened an elective metro government to not just plan but actually carry out key regional land-use priorities” in the Portland region.

Monday, July 10, 2023 in The Conversation

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Rendering of wildlife crossing over 101 freeway in Los Angeles County.

World's Largest Wildlife Overpass In the Works in Los Angeles County

Caltrans will soon close half of the 101 Freeway in order to continue construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing near Agoura Hills in Los Angeles County.

April 15, 2024 - LAist

Workers putting down asphalt on road.

U.S. Supreme Court: California's Impact Fees May Violate Takings Clause

A California property owner took El Dorado County to state court after paying a traffic impact fee he felt was exorbitant. He lost in trial court, appellate court, and the California Supreme Court denied review. Then the U.S. Supreme Court acted.

April 18, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Wind turbines and solar panels against a backdrop of mountains in the Mojave Desert near Palm Springs, California

California Grid Runs on 100% Renewable Energy for Over 9 Hours

The state’s energy grid was entirely powered by clean energy for some portion of the day on 37 out of the last 45 days.

5 hours ago - Fast Company

Close-up of hand holding up wooden thermometer in front of blurred street

New Forecasting Tool Aims to Reduce Heat-Related Deaths

Two federal agencies launched a new, easy-to-use, color-coded heat warning system that combines meteorological and medical risk factors.

6 hours ago - Associated Press via Portland Press Herald

View of Dallas city skyline with moderately busy freeway in foreground at twilight.

AI Traffic Management Comes to Dallas-Fort Worth

Several Texas cities are using an AI-powered platform called NoTraffic to help manage traffic signals to increase safety and improve traffic flow.

7 hours ago - Dallas Morning News

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.