If you want less expensive housing, you need more housing. And the way to get more housing is actually pretty simple: You have to let people build it.
But that seemingly simple solution has turned out to be incredibly difficult, mostly because of politics. More specifically, the problem is zoning.
Local zoning rules put limits on what can be built and where. Zoning rules restrict how high a building can be, or how many units can occupy a given parcel of land.
In some cases, they also require aesthetic features that can be cumbersome or expensive to build.
In other words, zoning makes housing more scarce—and more expensive.
In theory, President Joe Biden has staked out opposition to the worst of these building restrictions. While campaigning for president, he backed loosening zoning rules.
And the bipartisan infrastructure law Biden signed last year contained billions of dollars for transportation grants the administration indicated could go to localities that reformed strict zoning laws, as part of the administration's Housing Supply Action Plan, which the White House has described as a plan to "ease the burden of housing costs."
But that plan has produced disappointing results.
Mentioned in this podcast:
"Joe Biden's Use of Transportation Dollars To Incentivize Zoning Reform Is a Big Flop" by Christian Britschgi
"Are San Francisco's NIMBYs Finally Getting Their Comeuppance?" by Christian Britschgi
"Marc Andreessen's High-Tech Fix for the Housing Crisis Lets Him Keep Being a NIMBY" by Christian Britschgi