Tuesday, September 4, 2007
What happens when exclusionary zoning meets a housing equity bubble, which in turns meets a boom in immigration and single-adult households? What happens is that huge houses are built, which then turn into de facto rooming houses for single adults. The Washington Post calls the phenomenon “McMansions Turn ‘McApartments.’”
This effect is already resulting in calls for tighter limits on the sizes of houses and tougher enforcement of laws restricting the number of non-related persons who may live in a “single-family” house. These calls will be especially loud in places where large numbers of immigrants (many of whom migrated to the area to work in the housing construction industry) are living in the big houses. After all, since the days of Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926), American law has viewed the apartment building in a residential area as a “parasite.”
We are likely to hear less frequently, however, the reasonable plea that the exurbs –- where so many immigrants and other single-adult households now live, because this is where the jobs are –- desperately need a greater supply of apartment housing. Our exclusionary zoning laws keep them out. No where else does government regulation work so powerfully against the forces of the market to restrain the happiness of the less powerful, in favor of the more powerful.