It really seems to me like government needs to be in the business of building rental housing. Print money; buy land; upzone; build; operate; achieve payback; reinvest; operate older assets as deeply subsidized units :).

Expand full comment

If the most important bottleneck is municipal zoning restrictions, the provincial and federal governments have the power to simply bypass this bottleneck - as senior levels of government, they're not required to follow municipal bylaws. (They typically do, but as a courtesy.)

That said, I think it would take time to build up capacity within the provincial and federal governments to be able to do this. A comment from Paul E Williams on Twitter:

"Once again seeing some of you argue about whether housing programs should have budgets in the tens of millions, or in the billions. Meanwhile there is not a single jurisdiction in the US with the actual capacity to do large scale real estate development. Until then it’s all moot."

On what capacity means:

"Staff with experience doing large multifamily build-to-core development work; programs in place to facilitate moving projects through a pipeline; established financial tools to allow reliable deal execution."

I would guess that public agencies would also be quite risk-averse.

Expand full comment
May 30, 2023·edited May 30, 2023

Well, there probably is nothing like (tens of) billions of dollars to attract talented people. I have been impressed by Mazzucato's work, and I believe it is possible to build up highly entrepreneurial state capacity (though absolutely not a given).

I hear you, I wouldn't argue to stifle private sector investment, but I also think it's a particularly neoliberal frame of mind to argue the state can't do it even better for society.

Alex Hemmingway has written about this a lot more lucidly than I could - https://theprovince.com/opinion/alex-hemingway-how-a-massive-expansion-of-public-rental-homes-can-pay-for-itself

Expand full comment