Discover more from Vancouver Needs More Housing
Video: Jenny Schuetz, author of "Fixer-Upper"
A good introduction to the problem of housing scarcity
Book launch with Jenny Schuetz, author of Fixer-Upper: How to Fix America’s Broken Housing Systems, and Jerusalem Demsas, February 2022.
Table of contents for Fixer-Upper:
Housing Sits at the Intersection of Several Complex Systems
Build More Homes Where People Want to Live
Stop Building Homes in the Wrong Places
Give Poor People Money
Homeownership Should Be Only One Component of Household Wealth
High-Quality Community Infrastructure Is Expensive, But It Benefits Everyone
Overcoming the Limits of Localism
Build Political Coalitions around Better Policies
In an interview with Ezra Klein, Schuetz talks about how there’s really two housing problems. One is housing scarcity in general, which affects younger people in expensive cities all the way up the income scale to the top 1%. (A household income of $200,000 per year isn’t enough to afford a $1.5M townhouse in the city of Vancouver.) The other is housing for low-income households.
Interview with Ezra Klein, July 2022: Why housing is so expensive - particularly in blue states.
JENNY SCHUETZ: So the easiest way to think about it is that there are two housing affordability problems. One is that in high-cost metros, places with great job markets, like San Francisco, New York and DC, we haven’t been building enough housing to accommodate population growth and job growth for something like the last 30 years.
So this is just a classic case of we haven’t allowed housing supply to keep up with demand. There are a bunch of high-paid workers who want to live there. They’ve driven up the cost of housing. And we’ve created a bunch of rules that make it impossible for supply to respond to that. So that’s in some sense a localized problem, but in places that are really important to the national economy —
EZRA KLEIN: And to the media, specifically. [LAUGHS]
JENNY SCHUETZ: Yes. Very important to the media, to policymakers, to people who go on podcasts.
EZRA KLEIN: I give a lot of attention to this.
JENNY SCHUETZ: Exactly. The other problem is actually nationwide in scope, but it’s focused on the bottom 20 — 25 percent of households by income. The poorest households everywhere in the country spend more than half of their income on housing costs, and that leaves them too little money left over to pay for things like food and transportation and health care.
That’s not because of a lack of housing. That’s because incomes are very low. And specifically, incomes are too low to pay for what we can think of as the operating cost for minimum quality housing. So landlords have to collect some amount of rent to pay the mortgage and the property taxes and keep the lights on. There are a bunch of people who simply don’t have enough income to pay that. And so they are stretched trying to afford decent quality housing everywhere in the country.