by Brooke Medina
Vice President of Communications, John Locke Foundation
However, if there is one downside to this inbound migration (aside from the fact that so many don’t know the difference between eastern and western barbecue), it’s the fact that there aren’t enough homes to meet demand. Thankfully, there’s a bill working its way through the legislature that could help alleviate our problem.
Home prices continue to rise across the state, with Zillow data showing an increase of 10% since the start of the pandemic. Let that sink in for a moment. During a time of economic uncertainty and national societal unrest, home prices not only rose, they broke records. Yet, higher prices mean fewer people can afford to purchase a home. No surprise there!
If you’re a seller looking to downsize, you’re likely to turn a pretty penny for your property. But a buyer in this market … well, I do not envy you.
Why are home prices so high? The easy economic answer is “supply and demand,” but it’s worth considering why supply has lagged so far behind demand. And that is partly due to local governments and their onerous zoning restrictions. Certain businesses and home owners benefit from excessive zoning restrictions because it reduces competition, whether commercially or culturally, thereby shielding some at the expense of others. It is a form of government choosing winners and losers.
This isn’t to say there are never reasons for zoning, but I’ve argued before that, “unfair—and unjust—zoning restrictions to prevent others from accessing what would otherwise be available property is a form of disenfranchisement.” It also drives up the costs of existing homes, because fewer options, like duplexes and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), aren’t available for interested buyers.
Thankfully, Senate Bill 349 – coined as “North Carolina’s most ambitious state zoning reform yet” – could soon be a meaningful solution to our growing housing shortage. This bill would allow channels for more “middle housing,” such as duplexes, townhomes, etc., and give property owners more flexibility to lease out a room or small unit that sits on their primary property (ADUs). Essentially, it could reduce zoning restrictions on certain types of residences.