Affordable Housing and Housing Affordability

While I think many policies like this are well intentioned, they end up working against their stated goals.

I think people are primed to think about housing markets in terms of price (“if the rent was cheaper, I could afford to live here.”) The other half of the equation is quantity, which I think we are bad at thinking about, but is needed in our current situation because there is a physical shortage of housing units available that is driving prices high.

I have reservations about price caps or income floors. I don’t think there’s any disagreements among economists that binding price caps do create quantity shortages. I think the short answer for most should be to double-up, find roommates, live with family, etc. This has been the norm through history and only until recently did the idea that every working person should be able to afford a single living space on their own become commonplace. I think policies that encourage people to try to find their own housing are likely to worsen the housing crisis rather than improve it.


The solution is large social housing supply to push down rents without reducing quantity. The Vienna model is a proven winner.

I would also ban multinational companies from buying up housing en masse and inflating the price. This is a major market failure currently killing a lot of cities.


There are some important differences between Vienna and our situation.

Let’s compare NC with Austria (since they’re of comparable sizes population-wise and geographically) and Vienna with Wake County (since they’re both big metros).

Austria’s population grows at about 0.2% a year. The Vienna metro grows at about 0.7% a year.

North Carolina’s population grows at 1.1% a year. Wake County grows at around 2% a year.

The percents are small, but as they add up over decades, they amount to a staggering difference. It means that Wake/NC needs to build housing at two to three times the clip of Austria/Vienna.

I would argue that the housing in Wake/NC has been built, but primarily being absorbed in exurbs like Fuquay Varina or collar counties like Orange or Johnson. The resulting sprawl creates enormous traffic problems which may contribute to the high prices of housing that is near desirable locations (e.g., Raleigh’s city center) since it becomes worthwhile for deep-pocketed homebuyers or renters to pay the premium to avoid traffic.


2% growth a year when you are 1.2M is a pretty big absolute number, and a lot of folks to house. Even if you take out the natural births (minus deaths), the county still needs to build thousands upon thousands of new housing units a year.


I missed the part where they described 44% of all single-family home sales being bought by private equity firms in 2023. Or how this practice has led to nearly double the average home price since 2020.

But yea, construction costs.

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Can you cite this? I’d be interested to read more.


Has there been any movement on the city’s plan for low income housing at 1500 Wilmington St.? Is this a project that’s supposed to happen in the near future?

This site got denied. It was frustrating bc Council was focused on the build being at an elevation close to the flood level, which the city had just increased elevation requirements around 2020. It was a good foot (it might have been 3 feet, but i know it was at least a foot) above. Environmental department finally got through to the skeptical council members and then the worry became sediment getting washed downstream, a valid concern. There was talks of a study being done and then they denied the zoning without performing a study.

My interpretation was that they were moving goalposts and certain folks just wanted to deny the development.

Edit: Google Maps pinned the Fayettville St site when I put in 1500 S Wilmington. Not sure if Maps is right, but I know the Cargill site is nearby which was recently approved for Affordable Housing. In case thats the one you are asking about.


That’s a shame. I was asking because in the Dix edge study/future land use that the city approved it says that city initiated rezoning will happen on Lake Wheeler after construction starts on affordable housing at 1500 S. Wilmington Street. I wonder if the Cargill site is replacing that or if they were originally planning affordable housing at both locations?

That is completely false.
In Q2 2023, owners of 1000+ houses were… 0.4% of home purchases.

So where did this come from? It seems to be based on a non-representative survey done by John Burns of “fix-and-flip” investors, who report among other things whom they sell to:

“People who buy homes, fix, and then flip them have been increasingly flipping them to investors who rent them out. Investors bought 22% of flipped homes last year, and bought 44% of flipped homes last quarter.”

So that’s all buy-to-rent investors (half of them small landlords), buying from a small segment of construction businesses, in a self-reported survey. But someone on the internet conflated that to all house sales.


curious…with affordable housing inside the beltline, has or does raleigh give preference to those perhaps employed inside the beltline? im not sure if thats legal…but would such a paradigm then help encourage occupancy ITB without further expanding more far flung vehicle commutes. anecdotadly, i guess, for example, if you clean the buildings downtown in the evening you dont have to try to bus or drive from east garner to do it, so to speak.


“The Haight-Ashbury got downzoned in the 1970s when it was 40% Black. It’s now only 5% Black”.

Video clip on Twitter/X:

Full Documentary: Assignment Four - What's Happening in the Haight - Bay Area Television Archive


A lot of NIMBYs love to point to the very highest rents in new buildings and decry their lack of affordability: NeW HoUsiNg FoR WhOmSt?!!?!?!

Well, turns out that half of new (built since 2010) “luxury apartments” (aka market-rate) in the Raleigh MSA are rented at prices affordable at 60% of area median income (i.e., the level targeted by federal Low Income Housing subsidies):

86% of new apartments are affordable at HUD-defined “moderate incomes” (<80% of AMI) and 97% are affordable at “middle incomes,” or <120% of AMI.

New market-rate multifamily housing is the housing our workforce needs and can afford. Quit banning it from most residential land.


NIMBY’s also forget to mention all the affordable 1950’s and 60’s single family ranch homes that are getting torn down and replaced with $3-5MM mega McMansions all across the city when whining about affordable housing.

As well as their staunch opposition anytime someone proposes a duplex or ADUs on what have been single family lots.


That does raise an interesting point.

Living in Oakwood/Mordecai, I’m usually pretty happy when one of those ranches bites the dust for a bigger house because they’re usually cheaply built, middlingly taken care of, take up 1/4 of a giant lot, and the new house looks nicer most of the time.

I’m even happier when they’re replaced by townhouses (the developments on Brookside are a great trend), but I think arguing against replacing pretty mediocre quality housing stock with higher-quality homes isn’t always the way to go.


Sure it looks better. But replacing a 50 year old 2-3 bedroom ranch with a $2-3MM McMansion takes out an affordable starter home for young people (or anyone for that matter) to buy.


That’s what Clayton is for. :+1::+1::+1::+1:. Gave myself thumb up before all the thumbs down come.


Sure. For some people. Not everyone wants to live out in the sticks.

I have some bad news for you about the new builds…