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