Saturday, February 02, 2013

Babies and the "dirt gap"

Many people want land use controls but also worry about housing affordability.  One cannot have it both ways.  Here is one of many reports that corroborate the simple point.

Today's WSJ includes "America's Baby Bust ... The nation's falling fertility rate is the root cause of many problems ..."  Author Jonathan V. Last makes the case, but ends with various policy proposals that may or may not make a difference.  My guess is may not.  Among them is one that addresses "The Dirt Gap."
A big factor in family formation is the cost of land: It determines not just housing expenses but also the costs of transportation, entertainment, baby sitting, school and pretty much everything else. And while intensely urban areas—Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Chicago—have the highest concentrations of jobs, they come with high land costs. Improving the highway system and boosting opportunities for telecommuting would go a long way in helping families to live in lower-cost areas.
I agree.  But I prefer the maximum of land market flexibility.  As people dream up their preferred networking options, as they discover the mix of physical and electronic attendance they like best for work and for play, and as they have a chance at achieving the preferred mix, family formation could be made a little easier.

Housing affordability problems are often thought of in terms of how they impact the poorest people.  But there is more to it, as Last suggests.