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Zillow report: Four in five adults support more homes in neighborhood to boost affordability

SEATTLE — A vast and growing majority of adults support adding more homes to their neighborhoods in response to the housing affordability crisis according to new research from Zillow. Record-low inventory — triggered by a lost decade of home construction that caused a shortfall of 1.35 million new homes, fierce competition spurred by historically low interest rates, and now inflation — has made it harder for people across the country to buy or rent a home.

Monthly mortgage costs have nearly doubled during the pandemic, according to Zillow research, making homeownership much more expensive for potential buyers. This housing crunch also extends to renters, with the typical rent price nationwide reaching more than  $2,000 a month — 25% more than what they would have expected to pay in the months before the pandemic.

Zillow’s latest analysis has found increased public support for more density as a way to improve affordability. Support is strongest for new accessory dwelling units (ADUs), duplexes or triplexes in residential neighborhoods. Small, medium and large apartment buildings received majority support if built near transit and recreation amenities.

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“More and more people understand that the key to stopping runaway housing costs is to build more homes,” said Manny Garcia, senior population scientist at Zillow. “There is majority support among renters and homeowners, higher and lower wage earners, suburban and urban households, who all say we need more housing and support it in their neighborhoods.”

Allowing ADUs, duplexes and triplexes in zones previously limited to single-family houses is often referred to as “modest densification,” creating “missing middle” housing types that fall between single-family homes and large multifamily apartment buildings. Relaxing zoning rules to allow more housing supply is the best way to address the nation’s ongoing housing affordability crisis, according to an independent panel of economists and housing experts.

Close to two-thirds of respondents to Zillow’s most recent survey are concerned about the cost of housing in their neighborhood. A large majority, 70%, of all respondents believe adding duplexes and triplexes would help address this concern by improving housing affordability.

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About 75% of respondents support building even larger housing types, such as small to medium-sized apartment buildings, to help create more affordable housing options if built close to frequent transit, parks and recreation. The chart below breaks down the support by housing type if built near such amenities:

Agreement on these measures is broad: Respondents with diverse points of view, backgrounds and experiences all support some level of modest densification.

Younger residents, renters, people of color and LGBTQ+ respondents were found to most likely support all types of modest densification efforts in their communities.

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Regional impact

The housing affordability landscape has changed nationally, impacting even regions historically viewed as more affordable. For policymakers and residents in these markets, finding consensus on the best path forward is a new challenge.

For years, West Coast and Northeast markets experienced the pain of expensive housing costs, resulting in relative consensus among voters and local authorities to change zoning to allow for more homes. However, the supercharged real estate market during the pandemic brought the affordability crisis to Sun Belt markets, where this public policy issue has not historically been front and center.

A large majority of respondents in these markets believe local governments should do more to address housing affordability, and most vote in local elections, but their opinions are mixed on adding larger buildings in their neighborhoods to address the crisis.

The survey was the largest ever conducted by Zillow, with more than 14,000 respondents in 29 metro areas across the country.

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