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Understanding the U.S. Housing Crisis in an Era of Inflation

Economist Jenny Schuetz offers a practical guide to one of the biggest challenges facing renters and homebuyers: the skyrocketing cost of housing. 

New homes in a housing development in Antioch, California, in March. 

New homes in a housing development in Antioch, California, in March. 

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

By this point, the severity of the U.S. housing crisis is not in question: It’s a five-alarm fire marked by record home prices, spiking rents, proliferating homelessness — and more recently, ominous inflation. Yet what’s less obvious is how overlapping policies enacted by governments at the local, state and federal level produced this emergency, or what governments can do now to stop it.

It’s also a problem that intersects just about every form of inequality that persists in the U.S. today. Disparities in health, education, transportation, wealth and other social factors are all deeply threaded to place; segregation by race, class and income entrenches inequality over generations. And now a warming and unstable climate threatens to add another, even more cataclysmic element to this mix.