Gongol.com Archives: October 2023
Long-term trends like the expansion of flexible and remote working have done a number on commercial real estate in many American cities. As major employers have looked to get real estate off their balance sheets, increased attention has been paid to the challenges of housing economics. Markets in some places are so crazed that a modest-sized, mold-contaminated house with collapsed ceilings can list for more than half a million dollars in a place like Boston. ■ Into this confluence of events steps the White House, which has announced plans to encourage the conversion of commercial buildings to residential use. Some people are vocally opposed to the concept, at least in part because some of the proposed conversions might result in floor plans that challenge conventions. ■ People shouldn't compare affordable-housing proposals to the Four Seasons, but rather to the alternatives. The important question is whether public policies are expanding the supply of housing that is affordable, healthy, and safe. Those are the things we need most, and we need them in very large quantities. ■ Experimentation and innovation are needed in big ways. Housing costs pinch many American household budgets: Half of American households living in rentals are spending more than 30% of their income on rent, and ten million households are spending more than half their income on rent. Nor should we pretend like that housing is uniformly good. ■ There's little prospect of fixing these problems without motivating a much-expanded supply. And on the metrics that really matter (living spaces that are affordable, healthy, and safe), new construction and renovations must be weighed against the status quo -- which too often suffers from health and safety hazards, even if rich in features like old oversized windows. What we need is to build and renovate with enthusiasm.