'Bedroom Reform' for Today's Housing Crisis

Long Island, N.Y.’s East End has a housing price/supply crunch, like the United Kingdom. So it might want to look at an earnest argument out of the UK for addressing the scarcity by restricting or reallocating bedroom supply. (See this derivative post: https://medium.com/iipp-blog/meeting-housing-needs-within-planetary-boun...)

The scholars there found no actual shortfall of home square-footage in the British isles, but rather a hoarding of unnecessary bedroom space by a blessed slice of the population. Any Hamptonite (U.S. version) would quickly see how this applies locally, as McMansions with six or more bedrooms (nearly always with en-suite baths) are standard fare in new construction, and for only weekend or seasonal use in many situations.

Back in the UK, the policy wonks looking for “fair decarbonization of housing” measures acknowledge that some potential steps for redressing the bedroom imbalance carry obviously awkward implications. So they promote instead a tax on insufficiently justified sleeping space. (There’s a bit of Henry George in that.) However, this doesn’t fully capture the social dimensions of the UK problem, which is no longer Downton Abbey estates but empty nesters of more modest means who hang onto oversized residences for lack of preferred alternatives. Thus, it’s a “tenure” issue, and one aggravated by the cumbersome ritual of unfettered private-property ownership–it skews space toward older people with deeds.

If housing stock were better influenced by the state, bedroom space could be shuffled more easily among households as demographic needs change. The authors point to some Euro experiments. This more rational approach to domiciling appeals to certain academic minds, if not to the denizens of Long Island’s East End. One other reality check: The UK decarbonizers should make sure their own country’s “council” homes don’t share the static bias of New York City Housing Authority “projects.” Bigger apartments there, like those on fashionable stretches of Park Avenue, tend to stay with occupants who’ve aged beyond child-raising. Maybe, like the buyers of oversized Hamptons homes, they just wish to think the grandkids will come to visit.

See: https://timwferguson.com/2024/05/28/bedroom-reform-for-todays-housing-cr... H/T to Rent Free, the Reason magazine newsletter by Christian Britschgi, for flagging this UK item.