Keith Debbage: To sort out the inexpensive housing disaster, it is time to do away with single-family residence zoning in Greensboro | Columnists

While Ryan Ridge is a wonderful success story, it is unlikely to move the needle in any great measure. Over the past few years, Greensboro has consistently had the number of chargeable housing units well in excess of 40,000, illustrating the scale of the problem our community is facing.

It’s time to do something much bigger and bolder. The fundamental problem across urban America is that not enough new housing units are being built to keep up with demand.

When demand exceeds supply, the inevitable bottom line is rising property prices. However, in many American cities, it is illegal to build anything other than detached single-family homes on approximately 75% of total residential land. The number is even higher in some cities, including several Sunbelt cities like Charlotte, where 84% of all living space is dedicated to detached single-family homes.

Single-family zoning has driven home prices up, largely through state law by severely restricting the amount of land available for more affordable, denser, multi-family housing solutions. It is time to get rid of single-family housing, or at least make substantial changes to it, to help communities more effectively tackle the affordable housing crisis.

Of course, for many, owning a single family home surrounded by a large garden is at the heart of the American Dream. But this dream is getting harder and harder to grasp for large parts of the population as house prices soar. Ending single-family zoning may be a silly mission to some, but several communities across America are now adopting such an approach.

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