Friends of White Flint

Promoting a Sustainable, Walkable and Engaging Community

P.O. Box 2761

White Flint Station

Kensington, MD 20891

Phone: 301-980-3768

Email: info@whiteflint.org


Yes, you can build your way to affordable housing.

Posted on by Amy Ginsburg

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A lengthy but informative article shows how many other cities utilized diverse strategies to make housing affordable. While any one particular strategy may not work for Montgomery County, combining the best of these strategies may help make housing affordable in our beloved county. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs below that summarize the article, but you can read the entire piece here.

“Houston, Tokyo, Chicago, Montreal, Vienna, Singapore, Germany—all these places have built their way to affordable housing. They’re not alone. Housing economist Issi Romem has detailed the numerous American metro areas that have done the same: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, and more. Many more. They have done so mostly by sprawling like Houston.

“Houston, for example, can be Cascadia’s model for how easy it ought to be to get permits to build homes—if we believed, as Houston does, that building homes is in itself a good thing, our permitting processes would encourage rather than discourage it through endless months of hoop-jumping and politicized reviews. Tokyo, meanwhile, reminds us that placing control over development at senior levels of government, and making development of urban property a right of its owner, helps to elevate the broad public interest in abundant housing choices over parochial opposition to change. (Leaders in California have recently succeeded in passing a raft of new laws to act upon this lesson.) Chicago teaches that a pro-housing political orientation can provide abundant housing even under conventional zoning in a deep blue city, while Montreal offers Cascadia a model of a cityscape no longer of single-family homes but of three-story rowhouses, walk-up apartments, and condominiums on quiet, tree-lined streets close to transit and neighborhood centers. Singapore’s lesson is the promise of erecting high-density, park-like “new towns” on underused city land. And Germany shows us that a future is possible where housing is no longer an investment vehicle but “a very durable consumption good that provides a stream of housing services, not a ticket to financial gain.”

“And it is simple: Yes, you can build your way to affordable housing. Aside from economic decline and depopulation, it is the only strategy that actually works. You can do it through a state monopoly as in Singapore, an array of public and limited-profit associations as in Vienna, or private developers as in Chicago, Germany, Houston, or Montreal. But to have affordable housing, you have to build homes in great abundance, and without that, other affordability strategies such as rent control and inclusionary zoning can be fruitless or counterproductive, as in San Francisco. Building plenty of housing is not just one way to affordability, it is the only way—the foundation on which other affordability solutions, measures against displacement, and programs for inclusion rest.”

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