Are Progressives to Blame for the Worsening Housing Crisis?


In recent years, housing has emerged as arguably the key driver of class divisions in the Western world. For decades, working- and middle-class people could dream reasonably about buying a house, providing security for their families and a financial nest egg for themselves, but that dream is now slowly dying. Until the Nineties, house prices generally rose at about the same rate as income, and homeownership became more widespread, with the median multiple in most areas around three. But since then, prices “have been three times faster than household median income over the last two decades”, according to the OECD.

This has been further confirmed by a new Demographia International Housing Affordability study which found that, despite claims that they reduce prices, higher urban population densities are associated with worse housing affordability in the United States, Australia and Britain. Many of these changes are due to urban containment or compact city strategies that seek to limit development in already urbanised areas and promote urban density — an approach widely popular with progressive activists.

Unfortunately, many of the drivers behind these trends are political: the embrace of pro-density policies has been commonplace in both the Barack Obama and Joe Biden administrations, as well as in progressive bastions such as California. Indeed, there are even attempts by the likes of Biden to transfer inner-city populations to suburbs, who may be less than welcome when they get there. Add to that the problem of high interest rates, the product of Washington’s extreme profligacy, and even more people are being driven out of the market.

Those hurt most by these developments are the new entrants to markets, such as minorities — who now account for virtually all growth in suburban areas — and Millennials. According to US Census Bureau data, the rate of homeownership among young adults at ages 25–34 was 45.4% for Generation X, but dropped to 37% for Millennials — even though nearly three in five see homeownership as an essential part of the American dream. It should be no surprise, then, that Biden’s drop in support among young people largely lies with the diminishing prospect for upward mobility and home ownership.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and and directs the Center for Demographics and Policy there. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: Residential area of Whitter, California via Wikimedia CC 1.0 License.