Some cities have moved to alleviate housing shortages by increasing housing density, which means allowing more than one home to be built on a single lot. But while the method has proven to be effective, it’s not proving to be quite so popular with consumers.
A new Redfin survey of 3,000 consumers who bought a home in the last year shows that both buyers and sellers are twice as likely to oppose denser housing as they are to support it. The survey notes that 53% of respondents in fact support zoning policies that limit housing construction where they live, while just 27% support policies that enable it.
“People who don’t want dense housing in their neighborhood often reason that they don’t want to see the character of their neighborhood change,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist.
The survey results seem to oppose recent policies like the one announced in Minneapolis, which in 2018 said it was abolishing single-family zoning laws to make room for more development. Other states, including Oregon, have followed suit.
Interestingly, the popularity of stricter zoning laws changes along demographic lines. Blacks are the most likely group to accept policies that encourage greater housing density, with 39% saying they support them. Just 23% of whites said the same.
“Minorities may be less likely to have sentimental feelings about the types of housing that characterize their neighborhoods because zoning policies have often contributed to racial inequality through segregation,” Fairweather said. “However, the minorities who do oppose dense zoning may be opposed to the gentrification that accompanies dense luxury condos and apartments. In places like Minneapolis and Oregon, which have already banned single-family zoning, we may see white flight to areas where single-family homes remain segregated from multifamily homes.”
Incomes also affect people’s opinions. Some 39% of buyers and sellers with incomes below $100,000 a year support greater housing density, compared to 42% of those who earn between $100,000 and $200,000.
Older residents aged 65 and above were far more likely to be against greater density in their neighborhoods, with 64% saying they don’t support such measures. Those aged under 25 years however felt the opposite way, with 41% supporting such policies compared to 36% in that age group who do not.