Op-Ed

Housing prices go up and people go away

Fresno, one of the largest cities in the agricultural California has long been one of the most affordable places to live in the State. It was then very surprising when almost suddenly (in 12 months, in 2020), housing prices began to rise to 26%. What was the main reason? Mostly people leaving Los Angeles and the crowded Bay Area, to settle in Fresno and enjoy a cheaper, quieter way of life. This resulted on the low-income residents, and things are getting worse for them as prices will not stop to climb. Austin, Texas, recently became one of the least affordable cities in America, with an average of 180 residents arriving every day. And the momentum is nowhere near stopping: housing prices have already started climbing and new construction can’t keep up.

Housing is becoming an increasingly heavy burden on household budgets, and the cost of transport and dependence on the car are increasing as the distance between home and the city increases. Now that several cities (led by London and Paris in Europe) develop their own low-emission zones, spreading its legs each year, the cost of traveling and owning a car is higher than before. So, low-income people, often key workers of the city, are forced to move away from city-centers and rely more on their cars, whilst the same city-center asks for less petrol.

A very vicious circle politicians should tackle along with climate change actions. The urban environment is a series of interdependent phenomena. Access to low-carbon mobility, artificialization of land, renovation of affordable housing stock: the list could be longer, but the matter couldn’t be less pressing. The generational gap is widening between baby boomers, who are statistically more likely to own their own home, and millennials and Generation Z, who are seeing their dreams of one day owning their home vanish.

Examples could also be found in China, South Corea, Canada, Uk, Latin America, and Europe, where governments are fragilised : in Sweden and in Berlin, protests and populations took the government down or nearly did.

In their search for solutions, governments must do their best not to penalise either tenants or landlords. A very difficult task – but very necessary too.

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La Fabrique de la Cité

La Fabrique de la Cité is a think tank dedicated to urban foresight, created by the VINCI group, its sponsor, in 2010. La Fabrique de la Cité acts as a forum where urban stakeholders, whether French or international, collaborate to bring forth new ways of building and rebuilding cities.

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