Karen Petrou: Why Lower Rates Won’t Lead to More Affordable Housing

2024-04-12T10:31:58-04:00February 5th, 2024|The Vault|

As Politico rightly pointed out last week, the inability of anyone who doesn’t already own a home to get one is turning into a significant political problem for incumbents of all persuasions.  It might also come to be one for the Federal Reserve based on a call I got from a senior senator a couple of weeks ago.  This is not exactly what the Fed needs given how hot a political potato it’s already become.

Having read my economic-inequality book, the senator called to ask if I thought the Fed had any responsibility for the acute shortage of affordable housing.  As in all too many other states, his has seen a migration of teachers, first responders, and the middle class as a whole from cities and resort areas, with these vital workers forced to live hours from their jobs and thus in a state of perpetual commuting which they fear puts their children at risk.

This isn’t news, but it’s worse than ever and thus not just a daily grind for many Americans, but also a serious political threat to this moderate Democrat.  His state is deep purple and he believes it’s getting redder by the minute thanks to Donald Trump’s ability to mobilize voter anger on day-to-day economic challenges such as the critical one facing those who cannot find affordable, desirable housing within reasonable distance of their jobs.

As might be expected, the senator wasn’t calling to ask an academic question; he wanted to know not just …