More on Housing as Infrastructure

More on Housing as Infrastructure

Casey Anderson, the Chairman of the Planning Board, is writing a enlightening series of posts on the economics and trends that affect Montgomery County on The Third Place. Two recent ones are important enough that I want to repost them on the Friends of White Flint blog. We posted the first one titled,  Real Estate Development *Is* Infrastructure, yesterday.

Today, we discuss More on Housing as Infrastructure. Highlights of this interesting post are below, but it’s worth your time to read the entire article.

If we don’t have enough housing, workers will continue bidding up the cost of existing residences until only the very affluent will be able to afford decent housing in convenient locations. Lower-income residents will either be priced out entirely or face crowded, substandard housing conditions in remote locations with long and difficult commutes.

The problem is that restrictive land use policies tend to hurt the poor and middle class while discouraging businesses from locating and expanding here, because their workers are squeezed by the high cost of housing. This might drive some people away and discourage others from coming in the first place, but it would do so only by raising the cost of living and degrading the quality of life of all but the wealthiest residents – not to mention weakening our tax base by reducing our economic competitiveness.

Along with roads, transit, schools and parks, the provision of housing sufficient to support a high quality of life at affordable prices is a fundamental building block of an equitable and sustainable economy. It might seem counterintuitive, but in addition to exacerbating inequality by keeping out the poor or forcing them into substandard housing far from employment opportunities, high housing costs are also bad for the economy because they drive out younger workers who are priced out of the market and then move to lower-cost areas, leaving behind older residents and a shrinking tax base.

The DC region now has the highest cost of living in the entire US, and Richard Florida has made the point that housing costs are the main driver in cost of living differences. In the above chart, for example, you can see that the main difference in cost of living between Montgomery County and several other jurisdictions comparable in population is represented by housing – food and transportation costs don’t vary all that much. In other words, our high cost of living is almost entirely attributable to housing.

Read the rest of this post here.

Amy Ginsburg


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