Regulatory constraints on housing production have shut millions of Americans out of the country’s most productive labor markets. Historically, Americans have moved to the parts of the country that offered the highest wages and most economic opportunity. This tendency for Americans to move has changed in recent decades, as changes in legal land-use restrictions have limited housing construction in America’s richest locations. These restrictions have created limits on housing supply and have led to rapidly rising prices that make high-wage places unaffordable to less-educated workers. As a result, workers without a college education are now moving away from the places that offer them the highest wages and their children the best later-life outcomes.
In this proposal, I discuss strategies that policymakers at various levels of government can use to combat this relatively new problem, including case studies of cities that have successfully expanded access at the local level. This challenge differs from the more-traditional problem of making housing affordable for low-income households. Combating it requires new political coalitions and a sharper focus on the barriers, both political and legal, to development.