How the US made affordable homes illegal

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The rules that keep American housing expensive.

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Over the past year, housing prices in the US rose precipitously. Low interest rates and millennials’ entry into the market spiked demand across the nation, leading housing prices in some cities to increase by more than 20 percent in one year, and crushing the dreams of many would-be homeowners.

But housing prices in the US were a problem long before 2020 - and while demand is a big part of the story, there’s an even bigger reason it’s increasingly difficult for Americans to find affordable housing: We don’t have enough houses. According to one estimate, the US is now facing a nearly four-million-home shortage. And the primary reason for that shortage is what’s called exclusionary zoning.

Zoning laws are the local rules and regulations that decide what types of homes can be built where. These rules can sometimes have good intentions. But they also have a dark history in the United States as a tool to keep certain races, religions, and nationalities out of white neighborhoods. And while zoning laws in the US are no longer explicitly racist, their effect remains basically the same: to keep affordable housing, and the people who need it, away from the wealthiest Americans.

Today, in the majority of the US, especially in cities with good jobs, it’s illegal to build many affordable types of housing. And it’s led to a widespread affordability crisis. Watch the video above for more.

Jerusalem Demsas reports on housing policy for Vox, and she’s written a ton about this issue:
Houses are getting more and more expensive. There’s a simple fix for that:
What it’ll take to fix America’s housing rules:
The housing shortage is making discrimination a lot easier:
Why the housing market boomed despite the recession:

The zoning maps in the video came from UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute:

Other data sources:

Freddie Mac:

US Census Bureau:

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OneManArmy MarchingAlone
OneManArmy MarchingAlone 9 timmar sedan
Omfg.... Why is it always come to race.
LewHen Silvar
LewHen Silvar 10 timmar sedan
So what results have Minneapolis, Berkeley and Portland gotten since they banned single family zoning?
Tor Lumnitor
Tor Lumnitor 10 timmar sedan
This video would come across better if you had an actual expert in the video instead of just having a Vox producer as the talking head.
zapfanzapfan 15 timmar sedan
Another example of red tape preventing anything from getting done...
Mario Barrera
Mario Barrera 20 timmar sedan
So i spend a lot of time being homeless. It’s not there aren’t enough of them, kinda like not enough of them available
Hardboiled TV
Hardboiled TV 23 timmar sedan
I live in Asia and we have all those multi family housing everywhere, tall buildings with cramped spaces but somehow Real Estate Prices is still very high.
Cosmia's Stash
Cosmia's Stash Dag sedan
When Chinese people arrive in America, they are often shocked by the flatness and sparseness of the cities. "Where are the skyscrapers? Where are the apartment blocks? Why are the houses so short?" and they call America "a giant farm". Now I know why! Those zoning laws preventing apartment blocks from being built... I wish there are more apartment blocks in America. It took me some serious effort finding a place to live because of the housing shortage.
Kobe Taatiti
Kobe Taatiti Dag sedan
We love an A1466 MacBook
Helena Rose
Helena Rose Dag sedan
How about just pay the teachers better?!
Chris O'Rourke
Chris O'Rourke Dag sedan
You haven’t dealt with demand. The great bulk of the discussion was on the supply side
Empire State
Empire State 17 timmar sedan
Demand for housing is relatively inelastic.
joseph bozarth
joseph bozarth Dag sedan
They don’t care how big a deal it is as long as the rich continue to build homes and buy homes, disenfranchising the poor or underpaid in this economy. The housing spike is a ploy to push more poor into poor communities while allowing those more fortunate to escape that with a strong degree of separation to make them feel safe.
John Dag sedan
LOL median house price 350k, what a joke. Come to New Zealand our median house price is 850k
joseph bozarth
joseph bozarth Dag sedan
Come on man one you’re dollar doesn’t compete wit us and two you’re a much richer nation that the us compared to our marginal income. You have free healthcare and government subsidized work programs come to the us and try to live without a guaranteed future and tell me it’s still the ‘lol’ you claim. A 350,000$ house would cost 500,000 plus there. Try again sir.
Alfredos2818 Dag sedan
People tend to segregate themselves not so much the restrictions. A lot of it is a cultural thing. People tend to stick with people who they can relate to. Saying that the restrictions are caused solely because of these government restrictions is not the only reason
WestCoast Trainspotting
WestCoast Trainspotting Dag sedan
In fact, £400k In the UK is normal.
Sh_U_Bh Dag sedan
Come to Hong Kong to get a taste of 'HOUSING' ;)
Alex Echakowitz
Alex Echakowitz 2 dagar sedan
Hahahahahaha that’s nothing. The median home price in Canada is $700k
Crushing Housing Losses
Crushing Housing Losses Dag sedan
... and falling. *Brampton, ON Housing Prices Crater 11% As Toronto Subprime Mortgage Meltdown Accelerates*
Matt Collins
Matt Collins 2 dagar sedan
Government is the cause of the problem, not the solution... as always
Kevin Brotherston
Kevin Brotherston 3 dagar sedan
The more doors that can be built on a given area of land the more money developers and land lords can make.
pritpal gill
pritpal gill 3 dagar sedan
Meanwhile Canada enters into the discussion
Cody Anderson
Cody Anderson 3 dagar sedan
“The problem is zoning regulations… therefore we need more federal regulations” I appreciate Vox for identifying real problems and challenging my pre-suppositions, but I hope others can see the contradiction in their proposed solution.
B Smythe
B Smythe 3 dagar sedan
The irony is that a large proportion of these communities with very strict zoning rules that are inadvertently racist and cause homelessness... are very left-leaning communities!
Artur Mironichenko
Artur Mironichenko 4 dagar sedan
This has obviously also created the issue with homelessness in California and other areas. YES We need less restriction and government control on builders. The more regulation and costs there are on builders the less home’s they build = prices of homes skyrocket because of the demand.
Parlax 4 dagar sedan
never told the story behind why it's there. The laws. not Just bike told a better story on this
musikSkool 4 dagar sedan
So people that work in an area can't afford to live there, and many of the people that live there work somewhere else. Is there any way we can incentivize cities where 90% of people live within 5 miles of work? It would cut down on traffic.
Don Dondon
Don Dondon 4 dagar sedan
Seriously, getting a house is not something the government is going to do for you. Do not ask or hope for it because it will never happen. Housing cost money, and that cost is based on location. If you want a house in that area you are going to need money.
Metastate 5 dagar sedan
How the boomers sold the world.
iSeeYah 5 dagar sedan
No seriously, everything in America is "not built for the Black."
Charles Lauter
Charles Lauter 5 dagar sedan
A lot of people don’t want live in crowded neighborhoods because of crime. Crime is a fact not a theory.
Charles Lauter
Charles Lauter 5 dagar sedan
Do not forget the cost of insurance. My insurance per year no is over $ 15,000.00. The house is a 4 bed, 2 bath built in 1968. Ouch!
Artur Mironichenko
Artur Mironichenko 4 dagar sedan
Switch your insurance man. That’s not normal
Red Sibuyas
Red Sibuyas 5 dagar sedan
itll all come crashing down eventually in the next depression
ozko 6 dagar sedan
In Sydney the median house price is $1.3 million dollars
Crushing Housing Losses
Crushing Housing Losses Dag sedan
That explains why Australia housing prices are plunging.
Michael Mardis
Michael Mardis 6 dagar sedan
Cities and the surrounding areas in a reasonable radius should be zoned for multi story houses. Out in the country, single houses make sense, in the city, multistory houses.
Boba Cat
Boba Cat 6 dagar sedan
Young people know the deck is stacked against them so more and more are refusing to or simply can't afford to participate in the "American dream" so they're not having kids and in some cases not getting married things will eventually even out with most people not starting families or buying a house and staying single in an apartment or living with their parents.
Scott Clark
Scott Clark 6 dagar sedan
A huge untapped source of potential living spaces are Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's). They're often referred to as in-law apartments but they don't have the family restriction. Essentially they facilitate aging-in-place and/or provide supplemental income. Many cities and states are allowing for these units, even within areas zoned for single family usage. A quick google search of ADU's will provide an overview of what's commonly allowed. This is an immediate and mutually beneficial solution to the problem.
Artur Mironichenko
Artur Mironichenko 4 dagar sedan
Love it. People need to know it’s possible
Cherry Garcia
Cherry Garcia 6 dagar sedan
Close but no cigar, over the past 10 years there are tons of multi-units going up in Southern California and most buyers are not happy about it (not to mention that home prices have not slowed down at all but only sped up), many buyers want sfr with a backyard not a duplex not a condo, the people I know who bought condos i’m not happy and are trying to get out of it because HOA costs keep rising and their mortgage is huge anyway. Building multi units is not going to reduce single-family residence prices, it will only make them that much more desired increasing demand especially for buyers with equity in their condo moving prices even farther out of reach for first time homebuyers. Of the many “root” causes, zoning it’s not one of them it is a symptom not the problem for high valuations, though exclusionary practices are present and messed up and need to stop for basic moral reasons not tied to home values. Building cheap rentable homes just means more rich investors and funds buying them up, that’s one of the reasons the link between home values and household incomes (affordability) is distorted.
Paul Clifton-O'Donnell
Paul Clifton-O'Donnell 7 dagar sedan
This was great, Vox, thank you. I’m also appreciative of a number of insightful comments.
Jason Finch
Jason Finch 7 dagar sedan
Well there are thousands of abandoned here in Alabama alone. I can only imagine how many are empty in more popular states in America
Blue Sky
Blue Sky 7 dagar sedan
Damariobros 7 dagar sedan
There's also the fact that the richest firms in America are trying to all have a housing monopoly on all of the North American continent with no intent for any of those homes to be lived in by anyone, or with intent to rent it out at upper class prices, which is in itself driving up prices through artificial scarcity.
Aaron Vallejo
Aaron Vallejo 7 dagar sedan
I lived in Hong Kong in 2004. There the norm is 50 story apartment blocks. 4 apartments per floor. No one owes a car. Grandparents, parents and kids all live together in one apartment.
ResidualSelfImage 7 dagar sedan
With rising sea levels ... people need think about where the land will stay dry 20 40 60 or 80 years from now. if the climate is hot now think about how much hotter it will be when the average temperature goes up 2 or 4 Centigrade... and if the economy becomes more unequal and hungry homeless go a rioting and stealing and other bad stuff... will your place stay safe? ... if you can't afford a car cause gasoline is too expensive will you be land locked ? The pandemic virus could solve all this by evolving and killing off half of the human population which could free up existing housing for the survivors.... so that salary of yours isn't worth squat in this neighborhood... that says to me ... it is time to move on
fakeaname 7 dagar sedan
Minneapolis 2040 plan does more than end single family zoning. It’s actually ILLEGAL to build a single family home in the city limits.
Jody Herman
Jody Herman 8 dagar sedan
More empty homes than people without dwellings... The whole market is broken.
Fredo Atreides
Fredo Atreides 8 dagar sedan
A constant influx of new people into the country keeps demand up for entry level housing. The people currently living there feel uncomfortable and move a little further out from the city center. They get followed by the new arrivals. They move again. This constant churn keeps prices high as people are always looking to move. This means banks loan more money and make more in interest. Also means people aren't vested long-term in their communities. Suburban sprawl happens. Commute times lengthen. More vehicle miles, more pollution. Start encouraging repatriation and the reduced demand for housing will allow prices to drop significantly. I'm sure Vox will explore this in their next video on the subject, lol.
Splen borg
Splen borg 8 dagar sedan
Affordable to whom.
Jack Green
Jack Green 8 dagar sedan
Yeah And no one cares that a lot of hoeses are owned by wealthy, who keeps these house for a rent. But dont want account salaries of zoomers
l00k4tstuff 8 dagar sedan
It's about overpopulation. Many of those codes were set when the US population (and those towns) had a quarter of the population. To change the zoning to accommodate the increased population by increasing the population density means buying out the existing housing and raising the existing housing to put in the higher density housing. Much in the infrastructure needs to change to support that as well. They mention Portland OR, which has "urban growth boundaries". These drive up the housing prices because it slows the ability to build outward, even the higher-density type, limiting the quantity of homes on the market. This, in turn, drives up the prices. Add to that the real estate poachers who come from higher priced markets (ex: California) who purchase these homes in bulk to make rentals which they use to afford their lifestyle, and new house buyers get shut out of the market. In order to provide affordable housing, businesses have to be incentivized to move to less expensive towns.Companies have to de-centralize off the main corridor hubs, and additional corridors need to be made where there is little population. Current population centers as the center of industrialization have been overgrown past sustainability, and the ever increasing population means the only way to change this is to make new population centers away from those already in existence.
N5D 8 dagar sedan
So you are telling we should commit genocide to 50% of all humans?
Grégoire Nedelcovici
Grégoire Nedelcovici 8 dagar sedan
Your country is corrupted to the core, to a point where dollars come first and human lives come second. How have we been so foolish to believe in such a system? Well, it only a need a few, powerful ones. Thank you for your content Vox
nutsackmania 8 dagar sedan
lol this is what the residents want, they vote, that's how it works
Crushing Housing Losses
Crushing Housing Losses 9 dagar sedan
*Cape Coral, FL Housing Prices Crater 23% YOY On Soaring Inventory And Plunging Demand*
Yang Cui
Yang Cui 9 dagar sedan
The interest rate is the root cause of all this. The rich can get richer for doing nothing.
Sebastian Lee
Sebastian Lee 9 dagar sedan
American conservatives: 'Government should not infringe on the freedom of people. Markets should regulate themselves. People should be free to do what they please with their property.' Also American conservatives: 'Government should enforce incredibly specific regulations which limit to an extreme degree what people can build on land they own so that my rich white neighborhood can remain exclusive.'
Bradley Pollack
Bradley Pollack 9 dagar sedan
What the problem is foreign investors! Investors in general. No controls on housing.
Hamish Brewer
Hamish Brewer 9 dagar sedan
I never thought that Vox would complain about too many government restrictions.
/Zbdmo /
/Zbdmo / Dag sedan
what do you mean?
FancyUnicorn Dag sedan
It's not about too many or too few. It's if the restrictions are good or bad.
Jullyany Ewerton
Jullyany Ewerton 2 dagar sedan
Too many government restrictions = white and wealth people demands being addressed by the goverment
Pandaboi 3 dagar sedan
As I always say: "The government should protect adults from each-other and children from themselves (and from adults), nothing more (except adding freedoms by building railways and offering welfare)"
Matthew Weir
Matthew Weir 7 dagar sedan
Yet near the end they advocate for federal government involvement. I agree that local zoning is a problem across the country, but federal government involvement isn't the solution. That would just create additional strife.
Hamish Brewer
Hamish Brewer 9 dagar sedan
As an Australian, I couldn’t stop laughing at Americans complaining about “expensive housing”. I’m so sorry, it’s just hilarious.
VInce DiMiceli
VInce DiMiceli 9 dagar sedan
We should fully decommodify housing. In cities like New York there are enough vacant homes and apartments to house the entire population yet they are too expensive. If social housing was expanded we could end the homelessness crisis entirely.
Barbara Wilson
Barbara Wilson 9 dagar sedan
How about opening up more manufactured home communities and tiny home communities? Both are forbidden by much of America's exclusionary zoning policies.
Game Plays 1230
Game Plays 1230 9 dagar sedan
We’re stuck with a system that will crash
Seshan Sekariapuram
Seshan Sekariapuram 9 dagar sedan
Move companies out of maxed out cities like SF to least populated parts of the country, proving tax incentives for job creation. Then have developers provide high density housing, as priority over single family homes to increase the supply. Hopefully this will solve the housing crunch. Also, places like Detroit can be revitalized by the next gen jobs and careers to bring back its golden years.
juan cuello espinosa
juan cuello espinosa 9 dagar sedan
Waited to see how vox turned this into either Republicans bad, capitalism bad, or whites bad. glad to see it mostly went down the middle.
juan cuello espinosa
juan cuello espinosa 9 dagar sedan
@BloodOrange at least you don't see color!
BloodOrange 9 dagar sedan
The first two are quite bad
Qijing Fan
Qijing Fan 9 dagar sedan
Remember Gavin who make 200 housing regulations in CA?
Luke Myers
Luke Myers 9 dagar sedan
I would love to see zoning require more parking spots. If we can't ban most cars, we can at least keep them from parking on the streets.
curbman88 9 dagar sedan
Multi-family housing is NOT the solution. The solution is lowering the cost of building homes by eliminating unnecessary regulations.
Bob Quigley
Bob Quigley 10 dagar sedan
homebuilders are just another industry that actually own the politicians. They want to build ticky tacky leaky m mansions. They make out, suppliers make out, the rest of us not so much
Ev Bon
Ev Bon 10 dagar sedan
Sydney Aus way worse
David Alexander
David Alexander 10 dagar sedan
Who are these millennials who are paying, up front, 15-20 percent more than asking price? In an earlier explainer video you highlight how Millennials have less wealth at our present age than any previous generation. How are they paying 15-20% MORE than asking price? I think you're missing something here, Vox.
alix11000 10 dagar sedan
- Black rock - Central banks - Government corruption
Eyemem 10 dagar sedan
another thing to consider in my new republic
phil marsh
phil marsh 10 dagar sedan
Yup, As I've been screaming for years. Zoning, the monster. Zoning is going to destroy the US. Maybe a foreign power will come in take over, and dictate an end to zoning.
phil marsh
phil marsh 10 dagar sedan
If you voted and clamored for more zoning restrictions then you are the problem. Not Blackrock or the other billionaire investors.
Sammy Rovalino
Sammy Rovalino 10 dagar sedan
its called progress and expansion
xEnjoyTheMoment 10 dagar sedan
America, are you ok?
Moss Mini
Moss Mini 10 dagar sedan
More people = Higher Housing Costs. Democrats love open borders . More Immigrant Voters equals less housing for US Democrats Citizens.
Hurlebatte 10 dagar sedan
Taxing people's homes is pretty warped, too. If someone lives on a small plot of not particularly special land, I don't see why they should have to pay taxes for that. Isn't shelter a necessity? Taxing someone out of a home is like taxing someone out of having air.
Investing Adventure
Investing Adventure 10 dagar sedan
Do not, my friends, become addicted to rising home equity. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence.
Captain_Context 10 dagar sedan
Cheaper houses = less profit for the builders. Also... If you allow "affordable" or even cheap housing, then you set the bar for poverty in the area for all time into the future. Nobody wants that. The city doesn't want it, the inhabitants don't want it.
Timelapses Of Singapore
Timelapses Of Singapore 10 dagar sedan
US should learn from Singapore, we solved housing lol
Michael Lehr
Michael Lehr 10 dagar sedan
Why was no mention made that the United States fundamental,y treats housing as a commodity and not a right as in many other countries. The United States obviously would do well to look to other countries, in particular Europe, with much higher population density, appears to have solved this question.
Strayedarticle 11 dagar sedan
You can trace all of this back to the repeal of glass/steagal.
Mason Makram
Mason Makram 11 dagar sedan
They're building "luxury" monstrosities in Minneapolis. Makes sense the zoning laws changed
Erlend Kristiansen
Erlend Kristiansen 11 dagar sedan
Some of those requirements are absurd. I grew up in a single family home with enough space for a garage, a workspace, parking for 4 cars and a good sized backyard on ~7350 sqft. 43,250 sqft is colossal. Just monstrously big.
TAnaker _
TAnaker _ 11 dagar sedan
America is the only country in the world that would the cost of living cheaper illegal
Natalie Mae
Natalie Mae 11 dagar sedan
Trump mafia realestate gaint and pals reaping & ripping Us citizens off Canada is stopping outside countries from buying up multiple apartments & condo properties units.
GcompBlazer 11 dagar sedan
Since graduating highschool my dream and goal in life is to end homelessness in the world. By providing the blueprints here in the US and show the world the option they have. You can make profit off of someone paying 0 in rent. But that's the bright side, ideally once the blueprints are made cities, counties, and states will only really be worried about breaking even on the construction of the buildings since productivity will rise with the full population having a place to sleep, shower, and call home.
Prince Sessa
Prince Sessa 11 dagar sedan
Are we close to the next housing market financial crisis.
ei 11 dagar sedan
Literally in my country, a small apartment unit can go up to $1M. The unit I live in now was $500K about 10 years ago. Now it’s $1M, excluding any renovation works.
kalamaron i
kalamaron i 11 dagar sedan
A driving factor is that people have been taught to treat housing as an investment. If most of your savings are in the price of your home, what interest do you have in allowing that price to fall? That combines with these zoning laws mostly being decided at the local level. There's a reason for that: many zoning requirements will be very idiosynchratic so you need to be a local to understand what is really needed. But it also means that the potential residents of a county never get a vote, even though they are very much affected. It's only the people who are already there - already on the property ladder and already have their savings invested in their house price - that get to have a say.
Ben Dejo
Ben Dejo 11 dagar sedan
None of the issues mentioned occur in a vacuum
Ben Dejo
Ben Dejo 11 dagar sedan
some one that knows real estate should have critiqued this. It is riddled with general and misguided statements
Nyantee Asherman
Nyantee Asherman 11 dagar sedan
It’s interesting because in the book Color of Law the author talks about how much of the white middle class was built by VA loans for veterans after WWII and also housing for factory workers for the war effort but now that same propped up white middle class is keeping everyone else out of their new Levittowns with their “neighborhood associations”. All my Brooklyn gentrifiers make sure y’all are at the very least voting back in your hometowns to end the housing crises
Crushing Housing Losses
Crushing Housing Losses 11 dagar sedan
*Sacramento, CA Housing Prices Crater 15% As California’s Fraud Riddled Housing Market Implodes*
Davide Loi
Davide Loi 11 dagar sedan
US is a broken country. everytime I hear an American say "we are the greatest country in the world" I laugh so hard.
Crushing Housing Losses
Crushing Housing Losses 11 dagar sedan
As long as housing prices continue cratering, all is well.
Alex Garcia
Alex Garcia 11 dagar sedan
I’m going to be running for governor of California soon. Is there any way I can get in contact with you guys?
Will Ranyard
Will Ranyard 11 dagar sedan
The phrase "don't be racist, I am a building" has never been so relevant...
harrison wintergreen
harrison wintergreen 11 dagar sedan
The government got involved and Americans demand en suite bathrooms. Saved you a few minutes.
Alastair Hewitt
Alastair Hewitt 11 dagar sedan
I'm all for restricting height in certain neighbourhoods (build to the sky in major cities), but everything else simply MUST change!
kinghal123 12 dagar sedan
You should see Hong Kong.
flipsideroot 12 dagar sedan
Look at those Asians rising population living in single family zoning 😂
Guilherme Mauricio
Guilherme Mauricio 12 dagar sedan
You forgot to mention there are tax incentives if you're paying debt. This encourages high income individuals to be always in debt. They normally do this by buying homes with borrowed money, bringing prices (and rents) up.
Corey Haskell
Corey Haskell 12 dagar sedan
Just move out of the city...
Cillian 12 dagar sedan
Where are the jobs Corey!,where are the jobs!
Marissa Dower-morgan
Marissa Dower-morgan 12 dagar sedan
Most Houses are really worth very little due to lack of Retrofitting for Global Warming , or the bad location for Global Warming
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