Real Estate

Americans want more affordable housing, just not in their neighborhoods

Redfin survey shows more than half support zoning policies that limit high-density housing

As housing affordability continues to be a national concern, several states have introduced zoning legislation that aims to tackle the issue by building more affordable, high-density housing.

One of these states, Oregon, recently passed House Bill 2001, a measure that will soon require cities of more than 10,000 people to permit duplexes in areas currently zoned for single-family usage.

While Oregon’s lawmakers believe the bill will promote housing affordability, data suggests that their constituents may be against the move.

According to a survey from Redfin, more than half of the nation’s homebuyers and sellers claim to oppose the building of dense housing in their neighborhoods.

In order to determine this the company surveyed nearly 3,000 respondents, asking them which housing policies best reflected their zoning opinions.

According to their findings, homebuyers and sellers were nearly twice as likely to oppose the building of dense housing than they were to support it.

In fact, 53% of respondents claimed to support zoning policies that limited housing density near where they live, whereas only 27% claimed to support policies that enabled the practice.

Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather says this is because most people don’t want to see the dynamics of their neighborhood change.

And interesting enough, the survey revealed this sentiment differs dramatically among the nation’s ethnic groups.

“African American homebuyers and sellers are equally as likely to support dense housing in their area as they are to oppose it, with 39% supporting policies that encourage density and 39% supporting those that limit it,” Redfin writes. “By contrast, white homebuyers and sellers’ responses fall in line with the overall results, with 56% in opposing housing density in their neighborhood and 23% supporting dense housing nearby.”

Fairweather says minorities may feel more inclined to support dense housing because of the nation's history with zoning laws that support segregation.

“Minorities may be less likely to have sentimental feelings about the types of housing that characterize their neighborhoods because zoning policies have often contributed to racial inequality through segregation,” Fairweather said. “However, the minorities who do oppose dense zoning may be opposed to the gentrification that accompanies dense luxury condos and apartments.”

“In places like Minneapolis and Oregon that have already banned single-family zoning, we may see white-flight to areas where single-family homes remain segregated from multi-family homes,” Fairweather said. “Even though pro-density zoning is unpopular among most homebuyers, presidential candidates from both sides of the political spectrum recognize it as a necessary policy for addressing housing affordability. Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have policies that aim to undo damage from racist zoning policies like redlining. President Trump also wants to redesign zoning laws to allow for more dense housing, but with a more free-market approach.”

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