Op-Ed: To Lower Housing Costs, Make it Cheaper and Easier to Build Housing

The argument in the headline, put more specifically: inclusionary zoning, fees, legal challenges, and minimum apartment sizes are counter-productive. The only policy that will add housing stock, is to make it much cheaper to add housing stock.

1 minute read

July 25, 2017, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Hope VI Housing

Brett VA / Wikimedia Commons

Dan Bertolet chooses a side in an ongoing debate about the causes of the nation's housing crisis—specifically, the reasons why the cost of housing is so high in so many places around the country.

Few public policy issues can match urban housing politics for its incendiary combination of passion and misconception. To wit: the confounding idea that relaxing regulations and fees to decrease the cost of homebuilding won’t make homes more affordable.

So on one side, there is the familiar argument that land use regulations, fees, and red tape don't have much influence on the price of housing, because "developers charge as much as the 'market will bear' anyway. Any savings from streamlined regulations or reduced fees just yield more profit for the developer, not lower prices or rents."

According to Bertolet, that line of reasoning excuses counter-productive housing policy, and is often used to propose more costs for developers. Bertolet is choosing the other side of this debate: that red tape and fees add to the cost of housing, and that to add the level of housing stock necessary to lower the cost of housing, red tape and fees should be removed as mush as possible. Bertolet goes into a lot more detail to make his case, while discussing examples like inclusionary zoning and acknowledging that his opinion is not popular among urban planners.

Monday, July 24, 2017 in Sightline Institute

Large historic homes and white picket fences line a street.

The End of Single-Family Zoning in Arlington County, Virginia

Arlington County is the latest jurisdiction in the country to effectively end single-family zoning.

March 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

Buildings on Wall Street, New York City

The ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for Office Conversion

A formula for the ideal office-to-housing candidate.

March 21, 2023 - Fast Company

Buses in downtown Seattle on the dedicated 3rd Avenue bus lanes

Seattle Bus Lane Cameras Capture Over 100,000 Violations

An automated traffic enforcement pilot program caught drivers illegally using transit lanes more than 110,000 times in less than a year.

March 28, 2023 - Axios

Couple embracing happily in front of home with "SOLD" sign

Millennials Now Majority Homeowners

Just over half of people in the ‘Y’ generation now own homes, but the largest generation also continues to dominate the rental market.

2 minutes ago - RentCafé

Rivian electric Amazon delivery van delivering packages curbside on New York City street

Minnesota Lawmakers Propose New Ridehailing, Delivery Fees

The proposed fees on transportation network companies and delivery services would help cover buddget shortfalls for transportation and transit in the state.

1 hour ago - MinnPost

Main Street Sign with Traffic Light in the Background in Downtown Houston, Texas

Part of Houston’s Main Street to Be Permanently Pedestrianized

A seven-block stretch downtown will remain closed to cars after the success of a pandemic-era outdoor dining program.

2 hours ago - Houston Chronicle

Associate I

Strategic Economics Inc

Senior Associate

Strategic Economics Inc

Multimodal Transportation Planner

Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

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.