In Adding Inventory, Density Becomes an Issue

December 6, 2017

Many fast-growing metro areas are facing a shortage of affordable homes. As cities struggle to keep up with demand, developers are hoping to break up large single-family lots and build more homes closer together. But some residents argue that such density is out of character with their communities.

“It’s an enormous problem, and it impacts the very course of America’s future,” Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard who studies cities, told The New York Times in a recent feature on density battles brewing in housing.

A case study on this issue occurred recently in Berkeley, Calif., with a home that had stood vacant after the owner died. A developer eventually purchased the home and planned to raze the property and divide the lot to make way for three smaller homes. Neighbors protested. The developers fought for two years and eventually won a lawsuit to move forward on the project. The developer plans to start building next year, but it was a timely, expensive process to win approval.

The lack of affordable housing has become a problem in communities across the country. More affordable homes, which tend to be duplexes and small apartment buildings, are being built at slower rates. Developers argue that adding density to existing neighborhoods dominated by larger single-family lots is one solution to increasing inventory where land is tight.

“Single-family neighborhoods are where the opportunity is, but building there is taboo,” Issi Romem, BuildZoom’s chief economist, told The New York Times.

Source: “The Great American Single-Family Home Problem,” The New York Times (Dec. 1, 2017)