If you want more affordable housing available to low-income renters, the best solution can be to build more expensive apartments. This isn't as counterintuitive as it first sounds. In fact, it's based in simple rules of supply and demand: If you increase the overall supply of housing — even by adding on the high end — competition for low-end units declines and so do their prices (or, at least, the rate of price growth).
A new report from the California Legislative Analyst's Office provides the data to back this up. In the San Francisco area, the study found, neighborhoods with heavy construction of market-rate buildings saw half the displacement of low-income residents that low-construction neighborhoods suffered since 2000:
The report concludes that boosting private construction would do more to broadly help poor households than expanding small and costly affordable housing programs that can serve only a fraction of them. Those programs also don't resolve the underlying cause of high rents — the housing shortage itself.
And that shortage actually undermines affordable programs like housing vouchers, because it's a lot harder for the poor to use vouchers in a market where they're fiercely competing with everyone else. [Washington Post]
Building new housing also allows older units to look worse by comparison, so old housing becomes affordable to the poor and middle class while the rich move into new luxury options. Bonnie Kristian