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Many areas of America—the areas where lots of people want to live—also have crushing housing shortages. One unorthodox, wild idea seems to be becoming more attractive... build more housing, faster.

Crazy idea I know!

Even idiot internet commenters can tell you that if a city has huge housing demand and inadequate supply to meet that demand, prices will rise. If this situation persists long enough, that city will become unaffordable to everyone except the rich. This is the situation that already exists in San Francisco, vast swaths of New York City, and other cities. If you are wondering whether it is “progressive” or “liberal” to create a situation in which no poor or middle class people can afford to live in your city: it is not.

Today, the Wall Street Journal
reports on the findings of a new study by Trulia that are thoroughly unsurprising: the American cities that take the longest to issue building permits for new housing construction have extremely slow growth of the housing supply, even in times of high demand, like now. The opposite is also true: cities that issue housing construction permits relatively quickly have might higher growth of the housing supply over the past 20 years. (New York City, Oakland, and San Francisco are among the five slowest cities to issue permits.)

Now, if you have ever witnessed, for example, the clear cutting of a forest in Middle of Nowhere, Florida to make way for a planned housing development that looks like it is made of 100% plastic, you may tend to view the concept of “new housing construction” with a certain distaste. It is certainly possible for specific municipalities to make foolish decisions regarding the approval of new housing. But this is a matter less of the speed of the permitting process than of a ruthless pro-development mindset of local governments, to the exclusion of all other concerns. And the cities that really need housing the most—the aforementioned Bay Area and New York City—are far less likely to be paving over sensitive wetlands to build golf course developments than they are to be tearing down shorter buildings to put up taller buildings. We don’t need to build destructive housing. We don’t need to build ugly housing. But one way or another, we do need to build housing.

If you want non-rich people to be able to live in our nation’s greatest cities—and you should—then you must accept the fact that we need to build a lot of new housing. If our local governments take one year to issue housing permits, we will not be able to build a lot of new housing. Let’s try to do it faster, hey.