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April 14, 2021  

Housing is About Capital Flow, and Always Has Been

April 14, 2021

Who actually owns the house that’s been sold down your street? There’s a good chance it’s someone who has no plans to ever live there. A recent article from The Wall Street Journal outlines how nowadays, one in five homes are bought not by prospective residents, but by large-scale institutional investors looking for single-family homes to flip. In bulk.

Housing is both a pillar of the economy and something that’s marketed as an investment vehicle, and because of that, we have a policy apparatus that’s designed to continuously drive the price of housing up—without letting it fall. It’s become less about housing and more about real estate. Of course Wall Street wants to get in on that game, and unfortunately, it’s a game that normal people don’t stand a chance of competing in. 

So at the end of the day, what is housing really about? Supply and demand? Providing homes for people? For families? Is it about the American dream?

Maybe the truth is that it's about capital flow, and always has been.

Every week on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney, an urban planner in Kansas City, and Chuck Marohn, the president of Strong Towns, take one story from the news and they “upzone” it—they look at it through the Strong Towns lens. This week, Abby and Chuck are joined by Strong Towns senior editor Daniel Herriges as they talk about how the housing market has become dominated by investors. They explore how this dynamic informs the Strong Towns perception of the housing market (and specifically, what’s wrong with the housing market), and what it means for America when a growing number of its homes aren’t actually owned by residents.

Then in the Downzone, Daniel talks about the “classics” he’s reading, while Chuck rhapsodizes about the start of baseball season. Abby, meanwhile, is heading off to the woods soon for mushroom-hunting, and the show devolves (or evolves?) into a hack version of National Geographic.