by Zoe Li

In early June 2022, Josanne English, a mother of three, was told she was being evicted. English made almost $100,000 in 2021, an excellent income, but with rapidly increasing rents and home prices, she did not have enough money for rent and necessities. English now lives in her car and showers in a gym. Given the current housing market, she will find it difficult to make a loving home for her children, who currently have to live with other relatives (1). However, she is not alone; according to Harvard University, “In 2021, more renters were cost-burdened than at any point in 20 years of data collection, with fully 21.6 million households experiencing burdens, or 49.0 percent of all renters” (13). Even if English obtains additional funds, because of the current housing shortage and soaring prices, she still may be unable to find a home.Will government interventions finally be used in a positive manner to address the multiple causes of housing shortages or will families all across the US suffer the same fate as English?

Housing shortages occur when the demand for houses is high and with too few houses available, the prices for homes increase (2). Urban areas offer many job opportunities, making living there highly desirable for job seekers, “New York City’s housing stock has only increased 4% since 2010, not nearly enough to keep up with its 22% increase in jobs” (3). Due to rising housing prices in cities, people relocated to suburban areas. Being able to work online, having good resources, and existing low crime rates make suburban areas desirable. As demand for houses rises, home and mortgage prices also rise. Chief Economist Danielle Hale stated, “Homeowners who [are] locked in a 30-year fixed [mortgage] rate in the 2-3% range don’t… give that up in exchange for a rate in the 6-7% range” (9). Additionally, high mortgage rates discourage people from selling, decreasing the number of available homes. The housing shortage also affects rural areas. After COVID-19, people moved to rural areas in search of affordable housing. However, over the past decade, funding for housing in rural areas plummeted by 95%. “ [T]here has been no new construction of rural rental homes… since 2012” (4). Without government funds, houses go without necessary repairs and renovations, resulting in less available housing, causing house prices to rise (8). The housing crisis is impacting every community across the USA.

Restrictive zoning laws are a leading cause of the housing shortage. Zoning laws classify what type of building can be built on a section of land, creating a sense of unity and satisfying the needs of people who live in the area (11). “[R]oughly 75% of land that is zoned for housing in American cities is for private, single-family homes, only” (10). Single-family homes occupy a lot of space, but accommodate few people. They are inefficient and reduce the supply of homes. Zoning laws that dictate minimum lot sizes, height requirements, and other restrictions encourage companies to build single-family homes (2). But zoning laws are not the only way the government has worsened the housing crisis.

Rising minimum wages fuel inflation and increase housing costs. For example, with lower skilled jobs paying higher wages, skilled construction workers expect higher wages. “In order to offer higher wages and attract workers, recruiters… have no choice but to immediately increase their prices” (6). To increase workers’ pay, construction companies decrease the number of workers they hire. Fewer skilled workers increase the time needed to build homes, raising prices.

Furthermore, the government increases housing prices through tariffs. Tariffs increase material costs, make construction prices rise, and increase housing prices. “According to the National Association of Home Builders, tariffs will boost housing construction and renovation costs by $2.5 billion” (12). Currently, the U.S. has a 25% tariff on imported Chinese steel, concrete, nails, roofing shingles, screws, and ceramic tiles.

Raising interest rates may slow inflation but simultaneously increase mortgage rates. When this happens, the housing market slows down, and prices rise. The demand for housing dips as houses become more expensive. House prices can mount until they are unaffordable (7).

Government activity has clearly intensified the housing crisis, however, the government can also implement solutions to alleviate the shortage of homes. Houston’s government has tackled the housing problem head-on. Being one of the major cities in America without strict zoning laws allows them to build many types of buildings, including apartments, which accommodate many more people in a smaller area. The city has also worked to repurpose tax-delinquent properties into affordable housing and build long-term affordable home ownership (5). Houston teamed-up with county agencies, local service providers, corporations and charitable nonprofits on a “housing first” program to get the most vulnerable homeless people off the streets and into apartments, slashing the waiting period from 720 days to 32 in the process (8).

A possible solution to the housing shortage in rural and suburban areas is to convince governments to build more low income and subsidized housing. However, building affordable housing in these areas is unpopular because existing residents fear falling house values. When densely populated low income or subsidized housing projects are constructed, traffic, noise, insufficient infrastructure, and the lack of medical care lower property values in a local community. To combat this, additional state-collected taxes could be provided to communities that embrace affordable housing to diminish these issues.

In recent years, increases in housing prices caused many evictions. With few exceptions, government activity has worsened the housing crisis. Zoning laws, interest rates, tariffs, and inflation are all controlled by the government. Although government intervention has increased the prices of homes, government intervention will be necessary to implement solutions. If the government reduces zoning laws, eliminates tariffs, adjusts interest rates and curbs inflation, the housing market will rebound and single mothers will be able to reunite with their children to provide the loving home that every child deserves.

Works Cited

[1] Bhattarai, Abha, and Rachel Siegel. “Inflation Is Making Homelessness Worse.” The Washington Post, 3 July 2022.

[2] Corinth, Kevin, and Hugo Dante. “The Understated ‘Housing Shortage’ in the United States.” IZA Institute of Labor Economics , July 2022.

[3] Horowitz, Alex, and Adam Staveski. “New York’s Housing Shortage Pushes up Rents and Homelessness.” New York’s Housing Shortage Pushes Up Rents and Homelessness | The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 25 May 2023,

[4] “Housing Needs in Rural America.” National Low Income Housing Coalition, 31 Mar. 2021.

[5] “Houston Land Bank and Community Land Trust Partnership Cited as National Example for Other Communities in Partnership To Turn Vacant, Abandoned and Damaged Properties into Affordable Homes for Houstonians.” Houston Land Bank-Houston Community Land Trust.

[6] “How the Minimum Wage Increase Will Affect the Construction Industry.” Live Oak Contracting, 12 July 2021,

[7] “The Impact of Higher Interest Rates on the Housing Market.” US Wealth Management, 1 Feb. 2024,

[8] Kimmelman, Michael. “How Houston Moved 25,000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own.” The New York Times, 14 June 2022.

[9] Kmetzsch | Wealth of Geeks, Cassity. “Stuck in the Suburbs: Pandemic Migration Creates Housing Crisis.” Salem News, 3 Nov. 2023,

[10] Meyersohn, Nathaniel. “The Invisible Laws That Led to America’s Housing Crisis.” CNN Business, 5 Aug. 2023.

[11] Overstreet, Kaley. “Zoning Laws and Their Impact on Urban Planning in the United States.” ArchDaily, ArchDaily, 10 Jan. 2023,,on%20a%20parcel%20of%20land.%20l.

[12] “Tariffs: Understanding the Effects on the U.S. Housing Market and Structured Credit.” Ellington, 8 June 2019,,renovation%20costs%20by%20%242.5%20billion.

[13] Whitney, Peyton. “Number of Renters Burdened by Housing Costs Reached a Record High in 2021.” Joint Center for Housing Studies, 1 Feb. 2023,,49.0%20percent%20of%20all%20renter.