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Seattle’s Timely Solution To Housing Shortage

Performance Property Real Estate Question

Q: What can be done to fix the housing shortage problem? Jay, Succasunna, New Jersey


A: Housing prices are skyrocketing in many places around the country due in large measure to a housing supply shortage. Seattle is case in point–it’s seen housing prices double in less than a decade.

There’s an interesting and timely solution to the housing shortage that has come from the tech industry in Seattle that shows a thorough understanding about one of the biggest causes of the problem. Seattle Tech 4 Housing is a non-profit working to change zoning laws in Seattle where over the last few years 100,000 new jobs were created but only about 30,000 new housing units were created. More than half of the land in Seattle is zoned for single family homes, which makes no sense given the increased population density in the city.

Housing prices are driven by supply and demand and the recent influx of jobs and people, primarily from the tech industry, has created much higher demand with insufficient housing supply.

The current zoning ordinances in Seattle and in many other areas, like many municipalities in New Jersey for example, were enacted when demand was lower and both the cost of land as well as the cost to build was cheaper. These archaic zoning ordinances have created a huge bottleneck in the housing ecosystem and should be revised to align with current demographic and demand realities.

Builders are not building enough housing units to satisfy demand and zoning ordinances are one big reason why. People are often reflexively resistant to change of any kind. One of the main arguments for maintaining outdated zoning ordinances is to preserve and maintain the “character” of the area but “character” has more to do with people than with building structures and this issue shows that the law of unintended consequences is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.

If zoning statuets don’t keep pace with current realities, housing shortages will get worse.

Thanks for your question, Jay. For more real estate information and tips visit my blog at geraldlucas.com.

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