The housing shortage we’re currently experiencing has been attributed in large part to lack of construction. There’s a lot more to the story, though. First of all, the slow construction doesn’t even account for all of our housing shortage — there are other factors such as increasing population, a rapidly changing housing market, and vacant homes not for sale or rent. As far as construction, the problem isn’t merely a lack of it. It’s true that construction dropped significantly during the pandemic, but it’s mostly recovered now. The actual issue is that the homes being constructed are frequently not adding additional units.
The statistics you see when looking at construction starts account for all types of construction. However, much of the construction that’s occurring right now isn’t on vacant land. In 2021, 76% of builders reported that the number of available lots is low to very low. In California, a lot of this has to do with zoning laws. Many areas aren’t zoned for multi-family residences or even for residences at all. Even in areas that allow condos or apartment buildings, single-family residences (SFRs) are in higher demand in California. Building SFRs in the right place is also difficult. 28% of SFR construction is reliant on lots called infill sites. While these are vacant land, which is good, they’re in areas that already have a high density of housing and are less in need of additional construction. A further 20% of SFR construction starts come after teardowns, merely replacing one SFR with another SFR.
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