Population Growth and the Housing Crisis

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Upzoned is back after a short hiatus for the winter break! To kick off 2022, Abby Kinney and regular cohost Chuck Marohn are looking at an article from Bloomberg, titled “U.S. Housing Crisis Only Gets Worse as Population Shrinks.

While this may seem contradictory, a smaller population does not necessarily result in more affordable housing for those looking for it. The author, Conor Sen, argues that people don’t want to live in places that are shrinking, and there will be even less housing demand in metro areas that were stagnant before the pandemic.

Sen’s suggestion? When thinking about housing dynamics, we should start framing the U.S. as “384 metro areas (plus 50 million Americans who don’t live in places big enough to qualify as a metro area) rather than one continuous country.” He argues this could help us understand where in the U.S. we might see continued decline or growth in population, and that national population stagnation could mean that housing affordability issues will worsen over time as people leave declining metro areas.

Abby and Chuck “upzone” this notion of population growth driving the prosperity of cities, analyzing it through the Strong Towns lens—starting with the underlying premise that drives this article’s thesis, in the first place.

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