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Affordable Housing Policy in the USA
Karnik Aswani

Jul 24, 2023

Many promising strategies exist for making housing affordable. But we need to be cautious of sweeping reform.

The housing policy is one of the most important policies in economics. Every individual deserves a place to live, whether it's a house, an apartment, a condo or any kind of shelter.

Certain areas in the United States, such as New York City, Boston and San Francisco, have an extremely high cost of living that makes it unaffordable for middle and low come households. Two main causes are high demand and low supply of housing. With a high demand for housing, there is an inadequate housing supply that leads to rising prices and constant change of neighborhoods.

Other economic factors that affect the housing policy are zoning restrictions, approval processes and building codes. There are strategies that aim to tackle these challenges.

The strategies include promoting higher–density housing, reducing zoning restrictions and streamlining approval processes. They entail reducing the barriers to supply, replacing outdated regulations and encouraging smaller developers to enter the market. While these strategies would be very efficient in improving the housing policy, some mayors may be unwilling to adjust the supply restrictions that could hinder the success of their housing plans.

Personally, I think these strategies would work depending on the income of most of the households in those cities. Big cities mentioned earlier are very expensive, so implementing these strategies there would take time and effort.

Zoning restrictions of neighborhoods should be loose. I experienced zoning restrictions throughout my high school career and know firsthand the obstacles they can put before affordable housing.

A city's housing market will of course be heavily affected by its population. If more households start to form, then more houses will be demanded, creating an imbalance of the equilibrium of supply and demand.

The aforementioned strategies are great ideas. But they must be executed in a way that accounts for the unique economic context of the cities and regions in which they're being implemented. Sweeping, decontextualized reform isn't the way to go. 


Shaffer, Benjamin. "Affordable housing in the big city: a look at causes and current policies in San Francisco, Boston, and New York." Kennedy School Review, vol. 15, annual 2015, pp. 40+. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 23 July 2023. 

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