To low-income residents and the groups that fight for them in expensive cities, new market-rate housing often feels like part of the problem. If San Francisco and Washington are becoming rapidly unaffordable to the poor, why build more apartments for the rich?
New housing, these voices fear, will only turn affordable neighborhoods into unaffordable ones, attracting yet more wealth and accelerating the displacement of the poor. And so protestors rally against new market-rate apartments in Oakland. Politicians propose halting construction in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Economists typically counter with a lesson about supply and demand: Increase the sheer amount of housing, and competition for it will fall, bringing down rents along the way to the benefit of everyone.