Housing Is A Human Right affordable housing YIMBYs

UPDATE: It’s Obvious. Americans Need More Affordable Housing!

In News by Patrick Range McDonald

Update, November 21, 2022: A new Associated Press article explains that Americans want more affordable housing by passing rent control and affordable-housing ballot measures across the country. More details at the end of the article.

In 2016, Zillow, the real estate site, released a key study that found, unequivocally, that we needed to build more affordable housing to address the housing affordability crisis. You’d think that would be a no-brainer, but YIMBYs and Big Real Estate don’t think so. Same goes for many politicians and even reporters. They all want luxury housing. So while we can’t believe we have to point out the obvious, let’s revisit Zillow’s report. Americans need more affordable housing!

First off, it’s widely acknowledged that poor and middle- and working-class tenants have been slammed the hardest by skyrocketing rents. As a result, housing justice activists have long said that politicians need to help these vulnerable renters first and foremost – and prioritize the construction of more affordable housing for the housing affordability crisis.

In fact, Housing Is A Human Right has urged elected officials for years to carry out the “3 Ps”: protect tenants through rent control and other protections; preserve existing affordable housing, not allow developers to demolish it; and produce more affordable housing for the poor and middle and working class. 

Housing Is A Human Right has been a strong opponent of trickle-down housing policies pushed by Big Real Estate, YIMBYs, and certain politicians and reporters, which focus on building more luxury housing for the housing affordability crisis. That agenda generates billions in revenue for Big Real Estate and millions in campaign contributions from Big Real Estate to politicians, but it doesn’t help the millions of poor and middle- and working-class tenants who need it most.

(Read our article: “Trickle-Down Housing is a Failure. Here’s What You Need to Know.”)

So let’s take a look at the Zillow study from 2016, which was a harbinger for things to come and remains relevant.

Zillow found “only a small portion” of newly built apartments are affordable for moderate- and low-incomes tenants; “most new apartment construction is at the top of the market, where luxury units command top prices from wealthy renters;” and there was a dire need for the production of more affordable housing. 

“There’s a growing divide in the rental market right now,” Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said in 2016. “Very high demand at the low end of the market is being met with more supply at the high end, an imbalance that will only contribute to growing affordability concerns for all renters.”

She added: “We’re simply not building enough at the bottom and middle of the rental market to keep up with demand. As a result, these segments are becoming very competitive, as both new renters look to find their first place and existing renters get shut out of homeownership because of extremely limited for-sale inventory. Apartment construction at the low end needs to start ramping up, and soon, in order to see real improvement.”

Zillow’s been proven correct six years later.

The production of luxury housing over affordable housing continues to be the overwhelming priority for Big Real Estate, YIMBYs, and politicians, and the lack of new affordable housing has fueled the worsening housing affordability crisis, with rents going through the roof. At the same time, sky-high rents have triggered more homelessness in major cities – and more unhoused individuals are dying on the streets.

In other words, the push by Big Real Estate, YIMBYs, and certain politicians to build more luxury housing for the housing affordability crisis has led to more deaths.

That may seem like a bold statement, but it’s the street-level reality – if there was more affordable housing for vulnerable renters, they wouldn’t be homeless, and they wouldn’t have died.

Big Real Estate, politicians, and YIMBYs will try to make clever arguments to squirm their way out of that grim reality they helped shape, but it’s the stone-cold truth.

Yes, we need more housing, but we need a certain kind of housing – and, as Zillow pointed out, it’s not luxury. What millions of Americans need is more affordable housing. Lives hang in the balance.

UPDATE: On November 15, 2022, the Associated Press reported that “ballot measures in the U.S. to build more affordable housing and protect tenants from soaring rent increases were plentiful and fared well in last week’s midterm elections.”

The AP noted that voters “approved capping rent increases at below inflation in three U.S. cities: Portland, Maine, and Richmond and Santa Monica in California.” Voters also passed rent control initiatives in Pasadena, California, and Orange County in Florida, and they backed numerous affordable housing ballot measures in cities across the country.

For the 2022 elections, Americans made a clear statement: they want politicians to support pro-rent control and pro-affordable housing policies.

The victories also showed that California YIMBY and other YIMBY groups, which routinely oppose rent control and push a trickle-down, luxury-housing agenda, are out of step with what Americans want and need.

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