Wednesday, September 19, 2007
With housing credit now tighter (despite the Fed’s recent rate cut), the United States may experience a breather from its longstanding national goal of relentlessly increasing the homeownership rate. If the trend lasts, we may see a rise in the acceptance of zoning for multi-family housing, especially in the suburbs.
Such a trend is already underway in crowded Los Angeles. Although it holds a reputation as a premier “sprawl” city of low density, planner Todd Gish writes, in an opinion column in the L.A. Times, that Los Angeles has a long and venerable history of multi-family housing. Nearly half of the population lived in other than a detached, single-family housing as recently as 1924. And many affluent old areas, such as Wilshire Boulevard, retain many apartment buildings.
The growth in childless households increases the demand for dense housing. So does immigration, which brings many poor families with no immediate expectation of a picket fence to places such as Los Angeles. Successful suburbs, such as Cerritos, southeast of the big city, are today the goal of many immigrants –- although Cerritos itself historically has been a classic sprawling suburb, as the Economist explains. My guess is that suburbs such as Cerritos will hold a lot more quality multi-family housing 20 years from now. And that’s a good thing.