U.S. Housing Capacity Crisis Worsens, Says New Housing Underproduction Report

Date Published: 
July 20th, 2022

The nation’s housing crisis continues to worsen, according to a recently released report by Up for Growth, a Washington, D.C.-based affordable housing non-profit. The Housing Underproduction in the U.S. 2022 report analyzes the housing underproduction crisis using many metrics and finds that the housing capacity crisis has worsened over the last decade.

In 2019, the U.S. was 3.79 million units short of meeting its housing needs, compared with 1.65 million units in 2012. In 2012 there were 100 metropolitan areas experiencing housing underproduction, and by 2019 that number had risen to 169 metro areas. In total, 230 metro areas saw increased underproduction over that same period. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, construction levels increased enough to cause the underproduction deficit to grow more slowly. Retrofitting also grew rapidly over the last 2 years.

The authors note that the drivers of housing underproduction vary and are often unique to the location. Areas such as Washington, D.C. experienced underproduction because of a lack of formation of new households. In places like Detroit where the housing stock is older and in need of rehab, underproduction was caused by what the authors call “uninhabitability” – units that lack plumbing and/or a full kitchen. Cities such as Seattle, New York, and San Francisco saw their expensive growth contribute to housing underproduction, while underproduction in other areas such as Las Vegas, Boise, and Austin was caused by these regions’ expansive sprawls.

The report also offers “A Better Foundation,” which is a vision for increasing the construction of new units and revitalizing existing units. The report devotes significant time to analyzing how the “Better Foundation” methodology can improve housing affordability, racial equity in housing, and impacts of housing on climate change. The authors also posit that the housing deficit is a driver of inflation and that higher interest rates may not be enough to tame it.

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