Across the country, rich, dense cities are struggling with affordable housing, to the considerable anguish of their middle class families. The line isn’t smooth-and there are exceptions-but the relationship is clear: In general, richer cities have less affordable housing.
Although all three housing groups faced similar declines in the recession and similar bounce-backs in the recovery, affordability remains a bigger problem in the bluest cities.
There is a deep literature tying liberal residents to illiberal housing policies that create affordability crunches for the middle class. In 2010, UCLA economist Matthew Kahn published a study of California cities, which found that liberal metros issued fewer new housing permits.
“All homeowners have an incentive to stop new housing,” Kahn told me, “Because if developers build too many homes, prices fall, and housing is many families’ main asset. But in cities with many Democrats and Green Party members, environmental concerns might also be a factor. The movement might be too eager to preserve the past.”
The deeper you look, the more complex the relationship between blue cities and unaffordable housing becomes.