26 December 2005

The middle-class housing crisis

In 1970, about 50 per cent of all families could afford a median-priced home; by 1990 this number had dropped below 25 per cent. The next American metropolis, Peter Calthorpe

This quote, refers to the US, but could equally apply to New Zealand and the UK.

How has it come about? The authors of Suburban Nation, point out that one factor is the way that planners and developers design our cities. In most residential developments it’s now almost impossible for any adult to function without a car. The cheapest cars (in the US) cost around US$6000 a year to run, which at typical mortgage rates equates to US$60 000 in home-purchasing power. For two adults, the impact on housing affordability is obvious.

Another crucial point, which I’m pleased the authors make:

The atomization of our society into suburban clusters was the result of specific government and industry policies rather than of some popular mandate.
It’s not markets, in other words, that have led to urban sprawl, but government subsidies, notably for oil extraction, consumption, and for highway construction, along with disastrous single-use zoning laws.

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