Over-regulation of Housing hurting Virginia?

This is a guest post by Amy Weiss. Amy is originally from Richmond, Virginia and is a second year law student at the University of Richmond.  She graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2007 where she studied history and anthropology.

In his article “Why Affordable Housing Matters,” urban studies authority Joel Kotkin discusses the economic factors behind recent housing trends.  Kotkin explains how people in English-speaking countries are migrating out of high-density, expensive cities for more affordable housing.  In the United States, this means people of all background are leaving large cities like New York and Los Angeles for the more affordable cities and regions of the South.

Kotkin explains that the importance of affordable housing to promote eceonomic growth.  The high prices of housing in the large cities do not make them a more attractive residence for most people, but make them unaffordable for anyone except the very wealth middle class.  Providing home buyers access to affordable housing has helped many regions and cities in the South grow both economically and demographically in the past several years.

In contrast, Kotkin explained that imposing strict limits on housing development causes an increase in housing prices, which can be detrimental to many cities especially in the current economy.  A good example is “smart growth” policies which have been popular in many different cities, but research has shown they have contributed to increases in housing prices.  This has been especially harmful in cities in the United Kingdom and Australia where housing costs have skyrocketed.

Over-regulation of housing development also poses a threat in Virginia.  Even with legislators and Virginians being open to a wide range of housing options for all different demographics, an attitude of “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) has kept these ideas from becoming reality in many localities.  Kotkin’s tale of outrageously high housing prices and the flight of potential home buyers should caution Virginians to take measures to avoid the same problems.

Proposed bills HB 1578, sponsored by Delegate Rosalyn Dance (D- Petersburg), and its sister bill in the SB830, sponsored by Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), address these problems of over-regulation.  Both bills would prevent localities and local land ordinances from discriminating against potential housing developments that include affordable housing.  These restrictions are unfortunately, often based on misinformed notions of who would live in certain types of developments. Over the long term this overregulation has a negative impact on Virginia’s economy.

It is in the best interests of all Virginians to prevent this over-regulation on housing development. Virginians should have more choices when it comes to housing options for them and their families. HB 1578 and SB 830 would be a good step towards ensuring a wide range of housing options for Virginians while promoting the growth of the Virginia economy.

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