America’s housing shortage is spreading from the big cities to the nation’s heartland, with housing shortages worsening in 230 of 309 US metropolitan areas.
According to a study by nonprofit group Up For Growth, the country’s deficit was 3.8 million homes in 2019, more than double the 2012 figure of 1.7 million “missing” homes. With a shortage of 978,000 homes, California had the country’s largest deficit in 2019.
The number of cities with a housing surplus fell from 212 in 2012 to 140 metro areas in 2019.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in an urban or rural area, or really somewhere in between, the cost of housing and demand for it has far outpaced salaries and supply,” said Mike Kingsella, chief executive of Up For Discussing the study this month at the National Association of Realtors Conference in Orlando, Florida. “What our study really found is that far too many Americans cannot afford to live well where they work, play and socialize.”
While housing underproduction more than doubled in metropolitan areas, it nearly tripled in “non-metropolitan America.”
The three cities with the largest housing surpluses in 2012 – Tampa-St. Petersburg, Las Vegas and Phoenix all had housing shortages in 2019. Phoenix went from a surplus of 32,699 homes in 2012 to a shortage of 108,564 homes in 2019, the study found.
Despite the high construction figures, the housing shortage in Dallas and Houston has tripled.
Southern California and the Bay Area are epicenters of the country’s housing crisis.
Greater Los Angeles-Orange County was missing 388,874 homes in 2019, or 31% more than in 2012.
The deficit tripled in the Inland Empire to 153,372 households in 2019, the fourth-highest figure in the Up For Growth study.
The San Francisco Bay Area ranked seventh with a shortage of 114,000 homes in 2019.
Kingsella discussed the study’s findings with the Southern California News Group. Here are the highlights of that conversation:
Q: Why is the housing shortage in the country worsening?
A: “Why” is really the confluence of NIMBYism, exclusionary and restrictive zoning regulations, and other artificial barriers to building needed homes.
For example, if you look at the state of California, we measured housing elasticity, ie how the market reacts to rising housing demand.
California had a housing supply elasticity of about 0.49, meaning that for every 1% increase in housing demand, builders responded with a 0.49% increase in supply. So they build essentially half of the housing demand year after year, which is why the state continues to fall into a housing deficit.
Other states such as Texas and Florida also follow similar trend lines. In other words, their underproduction rate is increasing rather faster than it is increasing in California.
It all stems from the uncertainty and unpredictability of obtaining building permits.
Only single-family houses may be built on more than 80% of the developed plots. Then, layer upon layer, there are other types of barriers and land use policies that artificially limit building envelopes, building height, and setback requirements, meaning fewer units can be built on a given lot.
And all of these things taken together mean that there’s this gap between the housing that’s needed in the communities and the housing that we have.
Q: Why does California have the worst underproduction rate in the country?
A: Going back to the taxpayer revolt and the creation of Prop. 13 in the 1970’s and the no-zoning…in the 1930’s, these impediments to production are multiple.
California is also a popular place. Many people have moved to California over the past 50 years for access to jobs and quality of life.
And so you have layer upon layer of artificial barriers to many of the demand drivers that have led to really this kind of extreme housing shortage.
These barriers in California have proven extraordinarily acute, perpetuating and worsening the housing deficit over the past several decades.
Q: The California legislature has passed many laws over the past five years to stimulate housing production and facilitate backyard construction, the subdivision of single-family lots, the construction of small apartment buildings in single-family neighborhoods, and the construction of new housing on commercial sites. will this help
A: I think so. As exemplified in the case of Santa Monica (where developers try to build new homes under the “builder’s mean”, making it difficult to block plans with affordable units).
The city actually saw 4,000 production units (proposed), a large proportion of which were affordable.
Santa Monica, then, is a perfect case of an exclusionary and affluent suburb that tends to refuse housing, especially affordable housing, from obtaining planning permission. And that’s really the whole point of this topic.
Some people have called it an anti-commons tragedy, with local governments working to respond to concerns expressed by their constituents. But at this level of government, it is very difficult to reconcile these hyper-local concerns with regional and national policy priorities.
We certainly welcome some of the legislation that has been implemented nationwide, including the establishment of the RHNA (the Regional Housing Needs Assessment Program), the strengthening of the Housing Accountability Act, and some of the direct interference with zoning in SB 9 and SB 10. Ours Organization worked (in support of ex-MP Lorena) Gonzalez’s bill, AB 2435, which I thought was really an excellent bill…to provide more allowable unit density on a given site (including affordable housing).
Q: During the NAR conference, you talked about addressing the “missing middle” of the housing market, not just low-income housing. What solutions do you propose?
A: The idea of the missing center is that we used to build a lot of stuff, a lot of different apartment typologies. I would say living between single-family houses and densely populated multi-family houses. So these are ADUs, backyard cottages, duplexes, triplexes, cottage clusters, even six-plex and eight-plex apartment buildings.
In many cities across the country, these types of properties are not allowed under modern zoning codes.
The benefit of (developing the) missing center is that you can deliver more units in a compact, walk-in format that offers all kinds of benefits, from economical to ecological and of course affordable, as these units are, by and large, cheaper to build are door as high density apartment building.
Still, they are amazing solutions for infill development, which is a way to leverage existing investments and infrastructure.
Mike Kingsella profile
Position: CEO, Up For Growth, a political hub focused on the housing crisis
Location: Washington, D.C
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Community Development from the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University