How do we make housing ‘fair’ — embrace YIMBYism

by Dawn Ruffini

Fair Housing – the term is an often-used one. In a very challenged time for the housing market, it is essential that we all take a moment and consider what housing actually means to our economy, our neighborhoods and our individual and generational wealth.

In a 2019 study, the National Association of REALTORS® noted that a home bought at the median price for its market area contributed $88,500 to the local economy. An individual home purchase creates a ripple effect in the economy. When a home is acquired, there is often spending on items such as painting, furnishings, plumbing, electrical, etc. All these investments support other businesses and, in many cases, local businesses which bolster the local economy, especially small businesses. Such investments also increase sales taxes in the local economy, contributing to the municipalities’ ability to provide services to residents and businesses alike.

Considering the United States’ economy, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ research, housing’s combined contribution to GDP generally averages 15-18% and occurs in two basic ways: Residential investment (averaging roughly 3-5% of GDP), which includes construction of new single-family and multifamily structures, residential remodeling, and production of manufactured homes; and brokers’ fees. The housing sales category has a very large financial impact on our nation’s economy.

In a market where there simply is not enough housing options for the demand, it is very challenging for anyone to be successful in entering the housing market for the first time. Is this “Fair Housing”? No, it is the market lacking enough housing to support the demand. Considering what we think of Fair Housing to mean, this exacerbates the challenges posed to those who have faced barriers in entering the housing market for decades. It is more challenging now than ever before.

So, what is fair in this market? Not much.

This is a “seller’s market,” though most sellers who may want to downsize or upsize cannot find an affordable choice, even though they are receiving a premium on the sale of their home. The issue again turns back to supply and demand. There simply is not enough supply for the demand … both for those current homeowners and those aspiring homeowners.

So, how do we make housing “fair?” Local communities need to start embracing YIMBYism, Yes In My Backyard. The issue is local. It is change, and change can be scary. Though we must be willing to accept that we need more housing, we must also embrace more people in the housing market because it is good for the community. It is good for local businesses, and it is good for the national economy.

According to Habitat for Humanity, surveys of families with safe, stable and affordable housing show fewer health problems, improved school performance, less psychological stress and more self-assured parents. Wherever Habitat for Humanity works, strong and secure homes contribute to strong and secure families.

The current market is even more difficult to enter for those who have previously been prohibited from entering the housing market To make this a Fair Housing market, more production is critical. All of our communities must work together to embrace change. We need new and different housing options. It is good for the economy, and it is good for people. The American Dream includes homeownership, and we as citizens need to create that fair opportunity.

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