In every year since the Census has kept track, U.S. homebuilders have built more three-car garages than one-bedroom apartments.

I mean, if we ever needed an illustration of how there’s enough resources to let everyone live comfortably, this is probably it. Given all we hear about affluent young millennials moving into cities and living childlessly in tiny apartments this is kind of the opposite of what I’d expect, somehow? But I guess those affluent young millennials are living in dense urban cores where not a lot of new units are getting built.

Step one: Make it illegal to earn any money by building tiny apartments

Step two: Observe that no new tiny apartments are being built.

Step three: Wonder why there aren’t enough tiny apartments as more and more people move into the city.

I’m curious what regulations are obstructing tiny apartment construction, because that is kinda my ideal living space and I’d been wondering why they’re so hard to find.

Where do you live?

But here’s a list of some common issues:

(1) Only single-family houses are legal here

If I build a house that looks EXACTLY like the two wide tall neighboring houses on the outside, but make it a quadplex on the inside, that means I can make four families pay to live here, at a quarter the cost. That means poor people might move into the neighborhood! They might even be black, can you imagine the scandal? Better write the building code so all houses can hold at most one family.

(2) OK that was revealed to be super racist, instead only single-family houses are AFFORDABLE here

We got the building code overturned on accusations of racism but they made a new one: Each unit of family housing should have space for at least 3 cars (dad, mom, oldest child) because that’s super necessary. Oh you want to build a quadplex that hosts four families in the same space? Now you need 12 parking spaces instead of 3. At $20k per parking space[1], that means that a quadplex costs $180k extra to build, but you can only earn as much money as on a normal house (because you sell a quarter of a house four times) so you might as well build a normal house for one family and save $180k.

(3) You are just straight not allowed to earn money on apartments for poor people, so of course you don’t build them.

Rent Control, AKA “Don’t Build Apartments Because There Is A Price Ceiling” Control.

(4) Entire apartment building must be handicap/elderly accessible.

I can build 1 house to order, and spend $0 extra because the hale middle-class family moving in don’t request an elevator or stair lift, or in the same space build a quadplex and spend $Elevator extra to make all apartments accessible to the ADA public.[2]

(5) And so on

The list keeps going.

[1] Really. Yes really. Parking is mad expensive yo.

[2] Once upon a time, the elderly would live on the ground floor and the young and hale of body would take the apartments higher up in the building. Ground floor apartments are more expensive so this is kind of unfair on the elderly, but not as unfair as “Building apartments in the way that makes money stopped being legal, so we stopped doing it and now there are no apartments for the elderly. Also there is rent control so even if a young guy is willing to move out of his ground floor apartment and let you have it, I’m not allowed to charge you extra rent so why would I help arrange that in return for $0? I might as well keep him, he’s been making his payments and won’t die of old age any time soon so if you’re not allowed to pay more than the young guy, he’s a better customer and I’m keeping him.”

EDIT: Price ceilings and price floors.

It is entirely uncontroversial in economics to state these two things:

Absent other interventions, if you institute a Price Ceiling on a good, the good will be inefficiently under-supplied. If you institute a Price Floor on a good, the good will be inefficiently over-supplied. The European Union has decided that an inefficient food surplus is desirable to avoid famine[3}, and so if something is overproduced and causing the price to drop (which would lead to less production and might cause a future famine), the EU purchases any surplus until the price is back up.

EDIT again:

  • You: If the farmers aren’t afraid that over-production will lose them money, won’t they do all in their power to produce as much food as possible?
  • Me: Sure
  • You: But won’t that waste a lot of resources while producing food that isn’t necessary so it just rots away?
  • Me: Sure
  • You: But isn’t that super unsustainable? Also farmers in Africa mainly compete on price, won’t this keep them out of the European market?
  • Me: Sure
  • You: How do I stop this
  • Me: Stab a statist. Hang two of the tax-men who steal the money necessary to keep this running. Burn down three government buildings and shoot four politicians as they run from the flames. Overturn five police cars. Report six of your closest friends to a revolutionary committee for Insufficient Revolutionary Fervor. Repost this to seven different social media platforms.
  • You: I like a peaceful society where I can go to bed without fear of revolution and also I enjoy peaceful conflict resolution systems and I don’t want to risk the rise of a STASI who want me to turn in my friends.
  • Me: Uh. Vote harder? I got nothing fam why do you think I’m shitposting on Tumblr instead of solving any problems. But seriously, vote harder, and not for people who want any government programs unless that program directly helps the poor.

[3] Or to, you know, support hte relatively powerful agriculture lobby, depending on who you ask.

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