It’s pretty popular these days to focus on middle income housing and how we’ve neglected to continue to build for middle income residents. The optimist in me says that the housing crunch has now made folks realize how important a diversity of housing is in order to maintain differently levels of affordability. The cynic is me says that the folks who are focusing on middle income housing are doing it to detract from building all other housing and therefore concentrating on the type of housing that just doesn’t get built these days because of a multitude of reasons.
There’s a good piece on Bloomberg about the need for the in between housing that we’re not building these days. Highlights:
Small buildings are a good way to add density without compromising the character of quiet, single-family districts. They also provide a convenient way for older homeowners to downsize without leaving their neighborhoods.
But the best reason is that smaller apartment buildings are often cheaper for renters.
According to new research from Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing nonprofit, and the University of Southern California, apartment buildings with between two and nine units offer the lowest prices available to U.S. renters.
The reason why?
As noted, America isn’t building as much of this kind of housing as it used to. Small- and medium-size apartment complexes account for a quarter of existing units built in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the report. Since 1990, though, the category has accounted for just 15 percent of new housing stock.
Zoning rules have developed to favor single-family construction, making it harder to win approval for larger projects. There are regulatory costs to building multifamily housing, and developers that go through all the trouble to win approvals want to build more than just a few apartments.
…[O]perating efficiencies also make lenders look more favorably on larger apartments, Jakabovics said. It’s a virtuous circle for ever-bigger residential developments, though not so much for smaller ones.
I’ll point out that all those ticky-tacky boxes that preceded Alameda’s Measure A, while not attractive to some people, are the missing small and medium sized apartment complexes that are just not getting built these days but have been a staple of non subsidized affordable housing in the past.