By James Brooks.
It’s hard for a person who actually believes that government can and should try to solve problems to have a serious discussion with a person who sees government itself as the central problem in society. Nonetheless, embracing this challenge, I attended the recent panel discussion hosted by Next American City and featuring libertarian author and Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole.
O’Toole is the author of a book titled American Nightmare: How Government Undermines the Dream of Homeownership. The thrust of his argument is that housing costs are high because of urban growth boundaries, zoning and general land use planning. Although Mr. O’Toole takes all government regulation to task, he has a special affection for the work of local governments in crushing the American Dream of homeownership. For him, the blame for housing costs in excess of twice area median income rests with city planners and local policymakers.
The simple answer to the problem of increasing demand for single-family detached housing is, according to O’Toole, to eliminate all regulations and build anything anywhere one may wish. According to him, the real estate development market has the expertise and the economic incentives to decide what should be and needs to be built.