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Summary of Up for Growth National Coalition, Holland Government Affairs, and ECONorthwest research on housing underproduction in the U.S.

The study determined that from 2000–2015,

23 states fell 7.3 million units short of meeting the housing needs of a growing population.

This shortage represents over 5% of the total housing stock in the U.S. These are often in coastal and Sunbelt states home to booming job centers, but also in the Midwest and Northeast. Such a shortage restricts economic growth, raises rents and housing prices, hurts quality of life, and has negative environmental impacts.

Our research focused on addressing housing underproduction through three different methods:


This scenario distributes hous-ing proportionally based on a state’s current share of single family homes, podiums (mid-rise apartment buildings), and towers.


This approach assigns additio-nal housing units through a top down approach, filling in the densest existing block groups first, and working down to the least dense blocks.


The preferred and most effective method for meeting housing needs would assign new housing based on a formula of existing density, distance to transit stops, and the share of commuters in a given area who drive their own vehicles to work.

The research proved the significant

benefits in the Smart Growth scenario:

  • Using only 25% of the land required in the “More of the Same” approach, Smart Growth could produce 7.3 million units using 10% single family homes, 61% in podiums, and 29% in towers. More of the Same would mean 54% of new units would be single family homes alone, which have much more land and infrastructure requirements.

  • Because housing is distributed more densely and closer to transit stations, Smart Growth could reduce vehicle miles traveled by 28%, if patterns produced in California hold for other underproducing states. Taking cars off the road improves quality of life and cuts CO2 emissions.

  • Based on a dynamic, 20-year economic model, the report estimated that growth in a Smart Growth approach would create an additional $400 billion in GDP relative to More of the Same.

  • Economic growth will spur additional tax revenue. By our estimates, Smart Growth would generate an additional $128 billion in federal income and payroll taxes over the same 20-year period. Local tax revenue, particularly property taxes, would also increase under Smart Growth.

The benefits of a Smart Growth are clear. So how does the U.S. get there? We recommend federal policies that encourage:

  • By-Right Approval: Establish “by-right” high-density residential development in a half-mile radius around a transit station.

  • Impact Fee Recalibration: Ensure that impact fees paid to develop high-density properties reflect the actual infrastructure cost for such development.

  • Property Tax Abatement: Use 10-year property tax abatement as a gap-financing tool for new affordable housing production.

  • Value Capture: Establish mechanisms to capture the value created by new development, and use as dedicated funding for a range of housing programs.

Research on housing underproduction in the U.S.provided by Up for Growth National Coalition, Holland Government Affairs, and ECONorthwest.

Oregon Smart Growth was created to solve these problems through a Smart Growth approach.

Download Research
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