Housing is a big part of America’s story of innovation, productivity, and economic growth. For much of the industrial 20th century, housing helped to drive the economy by stimulating demand. Building more housing—especially in the suburbs—stoked the demand for more cars, washing machines, and other durable goods from America’s factories, creating good jobs for American workers and setting in motion a virtuous circle of economic growth.
But housing plays a very different role in today’s knowledge economy, where innovation and growth stimulate the clustering of knowledge, talent, and ideas. As a growing chorus of economists point out, the problem today is that we do not have enough housing—especially affordable housing—in the expensive and productive locations that drive the economy. The economic consequences often mean unskilled workers are unable to access good jobs in these cities, which costs the economy a huge amount in lost productivity.