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January 25, 2019  

Can a Big City Solve a Big Housing Shortage Incrementally?

January 25, 2019

If you’ve read our past coverage on how to solve a housing shortage, you know that Strong Towns is committed to promoting incremental solutions to get it done—but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our detractors. We get it; it’s not easy to imagine what an incremental approach to creating affordable apartments for schoolteachers in San Francisco might look like, or how building granny flats might make it possible for a grocery store clerk to survive in Manhattan. Especially if you’re new to Strong Towns, the word “incremental” itself might evoke words like “slow,” or “small,” or “timid”—while, in our humble opinion, real incrementalism is anything but.

That’s why, in this episode of Upzoned, we’re talking big housing increments in big cities—the good, the bad, and the well-intentioned but misguided.

Taking two recent articles for inspiration, Chuck and Kea talk Seattle and California’s recent newsworthy attempts to make a big leap in their housing market, and why one of them is doing something really right (and the other…maybe not so much.) First, we explore Microsoft’s recent headline-grabbing pledge (as told by the Seattle Times) to fill out their missing middle housing landscape by leveraging $500 million in financing and grants to homeless services programs to strategically target a few of the most intractable challenges their local developers face. And then we take on a California opinion blogger’s proposal in the Bay City Beacon to increase the state’s housing stock by 25% in just five years—without the aid of Bill Gates and his ilk. And the secret to accomplishing this gargantuan task might ruffle some feathers.

Then in the downzone, Chuck and Kea chat about their recent watches—including the OG television Sherlock and If Beale Street Could Talk—and the simple pleasure of going to the movies alone.