Monday, January 03, 2011

More Housing

It's a bit difficult to talk about housing as, unlike generic widgets, it's a complicated good. Buying or renting a place isn't really about obtaining one thing, it's obtaining a bundle of things simultaneously. You're getting the square feet of the place and a bunch of fixtures which can be of varying quality. You might be getting that mandated parking spot. You're also buying into a neighborhood with various amenities or disamenities. You're contracting with a local government, which charges some amount of taxes and provides you with a set of public services.

But in very rough terms, when thinking about the issue of the poor and housing, various regulations lead to the poor being unable to buy/rent the amount of housing they would like to buy, given their incomes. The kitchen remark wasn't a joke. There are probably people who would, if possible, like to rent a place in some neighborhood in DC without a fully functional kitchen, but are prevented from doing so because the kitchen requirement (I'm assuming there is one - I don't actually know.) prices them out of the local market. I don't know if they're building any more of them, but when I lived in London the existing housing stock had plenty of "bedsits," places which were little more than a bedroom.

Again, that doesn't mean all housing regulations are wrong or bad, but one impact of them is to increase the minimum price of a place and make housing more expensive. Requiring massive amounts of land for each housing unit really drives up the price.