Durham makes the wrong list on affordable housing

The free market of real estate sales takes no prisoners:

Ten years after the housing collapse during the Great Recession, a new and different housing crisis has emerged. Back then, people were losing their homes as home values crashed and homeowners went underwater. Today, home values have rebounded, but people who want to buy a new home are often priced out of the market. There are too few homes and too many potential buyers.

This isn't just a problem in San Francisco or New York, where home prices and rents have gone sky-high. It is also a problem in midsized, fast-growing cities farther inland, like Des Moines, Iowa; Durham, N.C.; and Boise, Idaho. In Boise, an analysis by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed there is a demand for more than 10 times the number of homes being built right now.

Quick NIMBY anecdote: My town government is having a tense struggle (with me right in the middle) with some neighborhoods over new construction projects, and one big takeaway is: They definitely don't want anything resembling "affordable housing." No apartment buildings, no modest townhomes (less than $200,000). Of course, many of these folks would prefer to see nothing at all built there, but if it's happening, they want to make sure no poor people, or even lower middle class, move in next door. Here's more about the problem, and the conundrum of not having nearly enough homes for the people who need them:

We asked our audience to weigh in on their own searches for affordable homes. We heard from hundreds of people across the country who attested to hard times finding a house and prices that were rarely affordable. They wrote about being priced out of urban areas, and out of the neighborhoods in which they wanted to buy. Bidding wars were lost for homes in Michigan, Seattle and North Carolina.

One answer lies in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, when home building ground to a virtual halt. The rebound has been slow and painful. Single-family home construction is now at its lowest rate in four decades. Housing experts tick through a list of reasons for the slow pace: There's tougher zoning, there's not enough undeveloped land, lumber is expensive ... and one of the biggest problems, a labor shortage.

As for the lumber and the labor, you can thank Donald Trump for making those two exponentially worse, with his tariffs on Canadian lumber and his vicious crackdown on undocumented workers. He's never been one to see the "bigger picture," but somebody needs to stick this picture in his face until he gets the message:

Builders can't finish homes fast enough to keep up with demand. All of this means prices for existing homes on the market are going only one direction — up, sometimes stranding people in their current homes even if they desperately want to move.

In Beaverton, Ore., Manish Gooneratne feels stuck in his home.

"We bought in May 2017 when home prices in our area had reached levels compared to 2007," he said. "As of one year ago, our home is estimated to have appreciated in value by $10,000 to $12,000. This is great, but since we barely squeezed back into the market, we doubt we'd be able to get back in even if we sold with a profit."

I know many of my environmentalist friends either couldn't care less about "slow" construction problems, or might even be pleased by it. But you can't snap your fingers and get rid of the population growth, nor can you focus exclusively on some future utopian post-Capitalist society while people of today can't put a roof over their heads. Current problems need both long-term planning *and* current solutions, and affordable housing is not going to fix itself.



Not wrong on Durham

I was living and renting in Durham before moving to and renting in Winston-Salem. With that move I saw my rent drop and my square footage go up.

That same pattern was true with housing prices. A lot of my friends are in their early to mid-30s also known as the time when many Millennials aim to buy their first home. We compared notes on house size and costs to our friends buying in both Raleigh and Durham and we were definitely the winners on that one.

And as you said, with growth, tariffs, and other trends the prices don't look to be getting any friendlier. I had caught a bit of NPR story on my way into work this morning. I see they have a look up tool on the story you linked so I decided to check out the top 20 municipalities population wise to see where they fell. Not all were there and some were clustered into metro-areas. Here were the results to fill in this sentence:

"In __________, NC, households earning the median income in 2016 could afford monthly payments* on ____% of homes sold in the previous year."

34.4% - Wilmington
42.7% - Asheville
50.3% - Charlotte
51.1% - Durham-Chapel Hill
58.4% - Greensboro-High Point
61% - Raleigh
61.9% - Fayetteville
65.6% - Burlington
65.6% - Jacksonville
68.5% - Winston-Salem (5th largest city in the state, close in population size to Durham)

I tried looking up Gibsonville on their tool, but sadly no results found. They don't know what they're missing!

They did have Burlington

on their list, and I was pleased to see it at 65.6%. We're probably somewhere in that zone, but a lot of the new construction might push that percentage down.