Why Housing Is So Expensive — Particularly in Blue States


Manage episode 334792947 series 2858887
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America is experiencing a housing crisis — or, more accurately, multiple housing crises. A massive housing shortage in major cities has resulted in skyrocketing rents. Low- and middle-income individuals find themselves priced out of the places with the most opportunity. Homelessness is rampant in cities across the country. Developers often face the steepest obstacles to building in the places where new housing is needed most. And young people are increasingly viewing homeownership, once a vital part of the American dream, as hopelessly out of reach.

These outcomes weren’t inevitable. Plenty of other countries supply their populations with high-quality housing at lower prices. And the solutions here are incredibly simple: Build more housing in places where it’s needed, build cheaper forms of housing, build housing alongside public transit, provide more housing vouchers. So why don’t we act on them?

Jenny Schuetz is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the new book “Fixer Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems,” which is perhaps the best, clearest overview of America’s housing problems to date. We discuss why the states with the highest homelessness rates are all governed by Democrats, the roots of America’s homelessness crisis, why economists believe the U.S. gross domestic product could be over a third — a third! — higher today if American cities had built more housing, why it’s so hard to build housing where it’s needed most, the actual (and often misunderstood) causes of gentrification, why public housing has such a bad reputation in the U.S.; how progressives’ commitment to local democracy and community voice surprisingly lies at the heart of America’s housing crises, why homeownership is still the primary vehicle of wealth accumulation in America (and the toxic impact that has on our politics), what the U.S. can learn from the housing policies of countries like Germany and France, what it would take to build a better politics of housing and much more.


The Left-NIMBY canon” by Noah Smith

The Homevoter Hypothesis by William A. Fischel

The Paradox of Democracy by Zac Gershberg and Sean Illing


Crabgrass Frontier by Kenneth T. Jackson

Neighborhood Defenders by Katherine Levine Einstein, David M. Glick and Maxwell Palmer

Maid (Netflix series)

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker, Kate Sinclair and Rollin Hu; mixing by Sonia Herrero and Isaac Jones; original music by Isaac Jones; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.

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