The Affordable Housing Crisis Intensifies

The Washington Post has published an interactive graphic showing how much rents have increased across the United States over the past year. Average rents in Virginia increased most rapidly in Hampton Roads, the Richmond metro, and the Fredericksburg area — up 20.4% in Spotsylvania County and 20.2% in Bedford County outside Lynchburg. Among localities that provided data, rents declined in only one county: Wise County.

Housing affordability has been a long-festering issue in Virginia. With the cost of housing skyrocketing over the past year, it is rapidly becoming a social crisis. Poor households are being displaced, forced to double up with family and friends. The poor are (rightfully) blamed for many problems of their own making, but unaffordable housing is not one of them. That is the outcome of temporary, COVID-related market forces and decades of anti-development housing policy in Virginia.

The Youngkin administration needs to get ahead of the curve on this issue with market-based policies to promote new housing construction. Otherwise, you can be sure that Democrats will come up with policies of their own that, if initiatives in other states are any indication, require government subsidies, interventions in the housing market, and short-sighted panaceas like rent control that will make matters worse.