America’s Affordable Housing Problem
How America got to be so unaffordable, and what we can do to make it more affordable; An analysis of good-in-theory v. outcome based policies
America has been struggling through a crippling housing crisis for much of the last decade. Many may intuitively feel this, but the data is even starker than emotions suggest.
Nearly half of all renters, amounting to 20 million households, are burdened by housing costs. 10 million renters are severely burdened, spending more than half of their gross income on housing. It’s not much better for home owners. The average national price to income ratio is 5.4, but far higher in the least affordable metro areas. San Fransisco, that bastion of unaffordability, had a price-to-income ratio of 9.6 as of 2020, where median home prices and incomes were $1.15M, and $120k, respectively. Of course, this is a very high salary. For most working class families, after high state & city taxes, expense of raising kids, and general cost of living are factored in — without even considering the ability to enjoy one’s self every now and then — it could take well more than 25 years to afford the median home. More likely, working class, and increasingly middle class, families will never be able to afford a home in San Francisco. Most end up moving to find housing that’s more affordable elsewhere. This has disastrous consequences on the composition of our communities, and society writ large.
The story is the same in countless cities and towns around the country, where people are forced from their communities in search of affordability. It has dominated traditional news outlets, social media, and casual conversation, as housing is one of the few institutions (nearly) all Americans can resonate with, and are compelled by. Where we live forms our identity, is responsible for what friends we make, how we view the world, and even contributes to the opportunities we get in life, including our economic prosperity. It’s unsurprising, then, that trying to understand the structures that could enable such a failure has become our new national past time. How can anyone be settled in any other aspect of their lives if they’re anxious about where they’re going to rest their head at night?