A More Comprehensive Approach to Planning for Housing

The community, in studying its housing situation, need not be bound by the necessities of federal approval and federal subsidies. One long-term issue to be considered is simply the numerical adequacy of the entire municipal housing stock. Projections of population and employment may be used to approximate future housing needs. A general understanding of market dynamics is also important. Units are added by new construction, sometimes by the subdivision of existing units and sometimes by the conversion of nonresidential to residential units. Units are lost through fire, demolition, abandonment, and the conversion of residential to nonresidential units (e.g., the conversion of a single-family house into an office). Market forces such as personal income, rents and prices in adjacent communities, land costs, the competition between residential and commercial uses for space, and so on shape the long-term change in the municipal housing stock.

For a long-term analysis, attention should be paid to supply factors, including land, utilities, street capacity, and the like. Thus a really comprehensive study would go well beyond the low- and moderate-income housing questions and attempt to understand the dynamics of the entire housing market. We might also note that housing for low- and moderate- income residents and housing for more prosperous residents are not totally separate matters. If neighborhood conditions deteriorate, we may witness a flight of the prosperous and their replacement by low- and moderate- income households. Conversely, if demand for housing is strong and the supply of housing limited, we may see prosperous households displacing poor households, the gentrification process visible in many cities.

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