Urban Planning

Why don’t we see public housing built? : urbanplanning

States seem to have no issue looking at numbers and seeing that they are short sometimes half a million homes in certain metropolitan areas given the demand triggered by job growth. These numbers find their way into reports and sometimes like in CA, the state puts pressure on local goverments to zone to meet this need. And there begins the rub where things like review and permitting serve to drive up costs and make it so not all of these would be upzonings, lot subdivisions, or adus end up being built.

I’m curious why we are doing this approach of hoping the market, already under strain from regulation, will build to meet demand in enough time? Wouldn’t it be better to identify ways to just build the housing directly, if the goal is to ultimately get this capacity in the area somehow? It seems historically in housing crisis, that was the role of government to provide this housing (1). Over time it seems like there hasn’t been much thinking done over how we could do something similar today. If a city like LA needs 500,000 new homes to meet demand, seems like the fastest route to 500,000 homes would be for the army core of engineers to build 500 towers of 1000 units each at cost in the region, rather than up zone and wait for economic conditions to enable the market to overbuild housing for cost plus profit past what it had been doing already? Has there been anything written in maybe economic or urban planning journals about the potential to use public engineering at cost like this, unbound by local zoning control, to solve this crisis directly rather than this wait-and-see market based approach?

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodger_Young_Village

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