Last week, we wrote about a new report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office that found that poorer neighborhoods that have added more market-rate housing in the Bay Area since 2000 have been less likely to experience displacement. The idea is counterintuitive but consistent with what many economists theorize: Build more housing, and the cost of it goes down. Restrict housing, and the cost of it rises. If you’re a struggling renter, you’re better off if there’s more housing for everyone.
Many readers responded by saying “of course! supply and demand!” as if we’d just uncovered the obvious. Many others responded “of course! supply and demand!” — by which they meant, facetiously, that market dynamics clearly don’t work this way in neighborhoods like the Mission in San Francisco, where poor residents feel pushed out by tech workers moving in.
This question — how do we make room in highly desirable cities for everyone — gets at a defining problem of our times. And even experts (economists, sociologists and land-use scholars) don’t agree on the best answer. So we asked several of them to hash out the debate further for us here: What happens to housing affordability when we build more housing that’s not subsidized? Do the laws of supply and demand really apply here?