There’s Really No Room For Mr. Pea In This Housing Shell Game

A series of conjoined row houses under construction is a cheery picture of green, as the bright coloured insulation waits to be covered up with more substantial red brick.
Deregulation of housing will allow developers to ignore neighbours and flood neighbourhoods with faux "luxury" housing such as this being built in a Chicago suburb, causing housing prices to fall. Lower income renters will be able live in this cheaper housing while waiting (possibly forever), for public housing to be built that is more suitable to their station in life. Really?

Featured below, a no-doubt well-meaning article about the American housing, long and earnest, explains why that country can only manage its affordable housing crisis by building so-called “luxury” market rate housing as a stop-gap.

Such a sacrifice is necessary until Rip Van Social awakes from its long sleep and, like a queen bee, starts laying public housing plans that are fed and nurtured so that they quickly hatch into livable public housing shelter.

That in turn will come as a relief for those who mostly are not camping out in stop-gap market-rate housing they can’t afford. (Instead, they will be racing around the countryside in pop-up tear-down tent cities one step ahead of the authorities.)

Rip Van Social, unless you didn’t get the perverse reference, is the collective of governments which are, in the face of the growing housing crisis, in deep snooze mode.

Some might argue that we are already building market rate housing as an unaffordable stopgap. But the enduring secret of this one-day-to-come affordable housing technique apparently involves building much more unaffordable housing.

Alas, developers and builders are currently constrained by government regulations from shouting “The gates of suburbia lie open!” and marching their elite high-rise construction troops to invade and blot out the sun. Eventually however, helped by deregulation, such newly permitted efforts will create mammoth quantities of market-rate units, so many that housing prices will creep downwards towards affordability along with wilted, sun-deprived backyard carrots.

Hmm. Would profit-minded developers actually do that if they could? We’re betting they’ll be happy to build just enough housing to hold prices high, thus sabotaging the entire plot1. But hey, we all gotta believe what we gotta believe.

Before pushing you on to savour this “more of the same” solution for galloping housing unaffordability, we should note that the title of the following article trades on America’s love for conspiracy theories, particularly dangerous ones. As you will enjoy to imagine, “The Dangerous Myth Of Luxury Housing” is an all-encompassing crisis thoroughly to blame for the nation’s affordable housing woes.

Will we be letting the cat out of the bag by identifying the real culprits — the over-selling ad folks who shamelessly try to convince you that the new development right beside the freeway is a “Quiet Enclave of Luxurious Townhouses?” Clearly, the pernicious excesses of advertising folk will need to be regulated . . . oops, but we’re getting rid of regulation, aren’t we?

Actually, there are loads of thought provoking ideas to chew over as you read a whole heck of a lot more in Marker:  The Dangerous Myth of Luxury Housing


  1. The profit imperative is not limited to the U.S. Here’s a discussion from Shelter about why developers in England might not build: Land Banking: What’s the Story?

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