A new report out from Brookings titled “Unpacking the housing shortage” came out this week. It deals with some of the root causes of the affordable housing crisis in the US. They show some important trends with a few great charts. Let’s look at them quickly.
The first shows where “new housing” comes from, and it’s not all from new construction (e.g. a five-story apartment building or new single-family house). Here you go:
Nicely, it breaks out the chart by region and land use type. Of curse, the big grey bar (new construction) is still the majority of new housing in all these areas…
Here’s a quote from the study:
In assessing the health of the U.S. housing industry, analysts and the media tend to focus on measures of new construction. Nationally, that’s not an unreasonable choice: nearly 70 percent of additions to the U.S. housing stock came from new construction (Figure 1). But new construction is not the only means of adding housing. About 15 percent of additional units came from reconfigurations of existing buildings. For example, a large single-family house could be subdivided into several apartments, or an “accessory apartment” could be built over a garage. Relatively small shares of additions nationally came from three remaining channels: restorations of previously damaged structures; relocations of mobile homes; and conversions of non-residential structures, such as office buildings.
There are two more Brookings’ charts worth your time here. The first focuses on how housing disappears:
A quick explanation:
The three largest contributors during this period were demolition, reconfiguring existing buildings to include fewer units (for instance, combining two apartments into one), and relocation of mobile homes. Other sources of loss included damaged houses being taken off the market and conversion of housing into non-residential uses.
And finally, a chart on trends in new housing over the last thirty years or so, where you can clearly see a decline in the production (and construction) of housing in the US. It’s not a pretty picture:
Between 2011 and 2013, housing gains barely exceeded losses. Both additions and losses declined during the strong economy of the late 1990s, then continued to drop. Even in 2007, at the peak of the housing boom, additions and losses lagged previous levels.
Brookings’ point is that, in order to keep housing affordable in the US, a lot more needs to be done on the supply side. They argue for loosening land use regulations and prioritizing new construction in potentially dense areas:
Far too many local governments still have zoning that prioritizes large-lot single family homes over townhouses, multifamily buildings, or mixed residential-commercial structures. For housing supply to grow, more localities need to update their zoning, building codes, and property taxes to allow and incentivize higher density housing, particularly near employment centers and transportation infrastructure.
(Meanwhile, affordable housing subsidies are under attack at the Federal level…)