Publications

- April 1, 2018: Vol. 30, Number 4

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What’s wrong with housing? An inconvenient truth, or the failure to make choices

by Scott Cox

Housing in the United States is broken. What does that mean? We simply no longer build enough units to meet demand and keep prices affordable for most citizens. The ratio of house price to median household income in this country was 2.2:1 before the 1970s. Over time, the average rose to 2.8:1. We’re now at 3.4:1. And these figures are deceptive, as they are actually much higher in many of our dynamic, high-growth metropolitan areas.

In many metropolitan areas, the residents seem to think we’re having a building boom. But if you review the employment-to-permit ratios and look at past history, you’re likely to find there is no “boom.” It only feels that way to many people because construction activity fell to such a low level during the Great Recession and, in this cycle, a much higher proportion of the building has been urban, meaning it is much more visible than when the vast majority of our building was on the suburban fringe. For proof of underbuilding, one only n

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