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USA Real Estate Blog

The Debate Over High-Density Housing

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The move to higher-density housing and less single-family zoning is taking hold in markets across the nation. 

Kim Hart, Managing Editor of AXIOS, recently appeared on CNBC to discuss the latest “YIMBY” movement. 

Hart said San Francisco, California, was “ground zero” for the rising home prices since the Great Recession, as median home prices rose to $1.7 million with prices nearing $1 million in the surrounding Bay Area. 

“You’re starting to see more and more people say, ‘well, you know what, the answer to this is to increase the supply. To help meet that demand. We have to build more houses and we have to build more units beyond single-family houses,’” Hart said. 

The pressure, though, is no longer solely on coastal markets, as areas once deemed affordable are seeing home prices rise and affordability become an issue.  

A Los Angeles Times report details how California lawmakers successfully passed pieces of legislation over the past several years that have chipped away at single-family zoning. 

The report says that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed multiple bills into law this week that allowing property owners to build a backyard home of at least 800-square-feet. The bill would also allow homeowners to convert a garage, office, or space room into living quarters. New legislation would allow for three homes on land previously zoned for single-family.

“We’re on the precipice of single-family zoning functionally not existing,” said Ben Metcalf, former Director of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Other markets such as Durham, North Carolina; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Oregon have enacted similar laws to allow for higher-density homes. 

Hart said there is beginning to be a clash between YIMBYs (yes in my backyard) and NIMBYs (not in my backyard), as many YIMBYs are having issues finding affordable places to live and want to enact change. 

“This constant debate over whether development is good, does it actually lead to gentrification, does it lead to displacement—and then I think the YIMBYs are looking at how can we find ways to decrease that,” she said. 

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