While we have had a lot of discussions on everything from rent control to gentrification to public-private partnerships, in today’s climate of green global planning for all, it is easy to avoid discussing the third rail of sorts: immigration and its effects on our housing needs. We hear the cries for more housing to meet the needs of the growing homeless population as well as the general public.
Before we can take action, we need to know who we are planning and building this new housing for. It just makes good planning sense: How do you plan if you don’t know who is here? Since we don’t have full knowledge or data and can’t collect data on some aspects of the population segment, let’s try and analyze the topic sans the total data needed.
The fact that humans need shelter is nothing new. Immigration is nothing new. This housing crisis upon us is something new. We need to make plans for the future. But how much housing do we really need? It’s difficult to plan on a local level for a global idea of population growth. If we start by considering the current, native population and the needs they have for housing, how does that help us plan housing for the future?
So, the question to ask is how would rents look sans immigration of any sort? Let’s say you have 1,200 acres of land that represents a city and a population of 1,000 households with four people to each home. We’ll use these numbers to start the planning for future growth. We can project how our 4,000 citizens will grow in 10, 20, 30 years. We plan the infrastructure for the future, with all the needed public indebtedness considered and in place. Imagine we’re six years into the 10-year plan and have had unforeseen migrations of people into and out of communities. Now what?
We’ve been trying to plan for the future without data.
I believe that the rush to glorious constructs with definite progress dates a year, five years, 15 years in the future has led to a lot of commitment and little wiggle room beyond rent control and select density plays. Progress reports won’t solve the problem.
We have made our plan for the future based on the needs of the existing known population and have seen a population increase. Now we need to adjust the plan. We need more housing, quick. We need set-asides for those with low or no income. The set-asides have to be allocated. How and to whom? Some will say this is a no brainer — documented citizens first. Since this is real estate we are talking about and it is based on contracts, is a lease or rental agreement enforceable with an undocumented resident?
If we want to solve the housing crisis, I propose we begin by unleashing density to all property owners in or near areas of extreme housing needs. This way, they will make needed investments and increase their estate. There are a lot of property owners who will jump at the chance to build and bring a few more housing units to the market. There has been some successful movement with garage conversions and mother-in-law units. What I suggest is more like a doubling of space without the requirement of parking. They want you to take the train, OK. In this manner, the housing market can continually or as needed rise to meet the needs of the population, even if we can’t fully predict the population size.
If you want to improve the country and address the housing crisis, let the can-do spirit of our people take the lead.