Dr. Jenny Schuetz, a Senior Fellow at Brookings Metro and the author of Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems, responds to the question: How do we determine Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s fair share of affordable housing to provide in the Triangle region?
Jenny Schuetz: If we allowed the market to build where it wanted to build, we wouldn’t have to come up with numbers and assign them. You would observe that, particularly in places where land is very expensive, then you would get vertical housing (denser housing) so more homes on a small piece of land to conserve on housing costs.
And so you would essentially see where the market wants to build housing, it would build more. And that’s going to be in places like Chapel Hill and Carrboro — close to job centers and close to good transportation infrastructure, neighborhoods that have a lot of amenities — good public schools, lots of parks and open space. We know the kinds of places that people want to live.
Trying to figure out an exact number for each community in a region is an artificial exercise that we have to go through when places essentially are opting out of this. The better option is don’t put in place barriers and allow the market to drive how much gets built where.
It’s not that every community necessarily is going to have housing at every price point or income point, because some places just have really expensive land and a limited amount of that and they’re going to be more expensive. But every community should have housing at some range of incomes. One of the things we observe about things like single-family exclusive zoning is that they prohibit the ability to build different structure types of different sizes. In some places, it’s particularly hard to build rental housing and then you get artificially a less diverse community than you would have otherwise and not enough overall.