I am beginning to think that the United States is facing a terrible housing crisis. The fact that we are is pathetic. We know how to build high-density housing in inexpensive ways. But we do not allow it. So places that boom in the northeast and California see little housing growth. But they see price explosions.
We are moving to Washington this summer. Our rent on a two-bedroom apartment (big enough for two adults and two small children) is $2525. When we moved in back in 2009 it was $2300. That is an increase of only 1.9% per year. In real terms, no change.
But the owners want to charge the new tenants $3200 for the same unit. That is an increase of 6.8% per year: well over inflation and a clear indication that something is off the rails in the Boston housing market.
The ultimate problem, of course, is that you simply can’t knock down the short buildings on this block and build more high-rises like the one in the background. It’s ridiculous. We are less than a quarter-mile from a T station; residential buildings here should reach 20, 30, 40 stories. But you can’t build them because, uh, Franklin Street is just so pretty as-is.
WTF? What in the name of God is wrong with Brooklyn? Build Brooklyn here! And for those of you in Brooklyn, go build Manhattan over there. Manhattan is great!
Here is my proposal for a tough tight restrictive zoning code.
- Adjacent units shall not lose more than two hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year unless their current occupants so agree.
- Monthly rents on a third of the units in any new rental buildings shall not exceed 0.003% of the median household income in the municipality per square foot. The price of one-third of any new for-sale units shall not exceed 2.5% of the median household income in the municipality per square foot.
- New developments must at least double the number of units of any housing structures demolished in their construction.
And we’re done! No parking requirements, no height restrictions, nada. Just the above. And truth be told, I would prefer to replace clause (2) with a tax on luxury units. Calling Bill de Blasio! (Or Muriel Bowser.)
Note that this is an incredibly restrictive code. Just less so than the bullshit we currently have. Historical preservation is stupid, un-American, and contributes to income inequality.
Massively. How much of the increase in income inequality is due to changes in housing costs? I suspect it is large; someone should do the decomposition.