Support for Policies That Promote More Housing Crosses Geographic Lines

Survey finds residents of rural, suburban, and urban areas share similar views

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Support for Policies That Promote More Housing Crosses Geographic Lines
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As the nation copes with a housing shortage estimated at 4 million to 7 million homes and how that has driven housing costs to all-time highs, states and cities are considering steps to encourage development of more and lower-cost housing. And a national survey released in late 2023 shows strong public support for 10 policies that have been enacted by various states or localities to do that.

Clear majorities across geographic and state lines support most of the approaches described in the survey done for The Pew Charitable Trusts. For example, even though California’s average home values are 2 1/2 times higher than Texas’ and government leaders in the states have different political orientations, residents of both offered strong support for most of the tested policies. And while lawmakers in New York did not enact a high-profile proposal in early 2023 to enable more housing to be built, 9 of the 10 policy proposals earned strong support from New York residents.

Majorities in Various States Support Most Policies to Allow More Homes

Share of residents in favor of each approach

  California % Texas % Florida % New York % Pennsylvania % U.S. total %
Allow apartments near transit or job centers 79 75 77 82 81 80
Allow dorms and affordable housing on college or church land 80 79 79 75 80 81
Allow apartments near offices, stores, restaurants 76 68 71 77 80 75
Allow conversion of basements and attics to apartments 73 67 71 70 76 73
Allow apartments over garages or in backyards 72 70 71 65 78 72
Require simplified, faster permitting 87 83 84 85 89 86
Allow commercial buildings to be converted to housing 75 71 76 75 87 81
Eliminate parking minimums 56 58 60 61 64 62
Allow town houses and small multifamily on any residential lot 63 56 56 56 56 58
Reduce minimum lot size 57 45 46 44 52 49

Notes: Results come from a nationally representative survey of 5,051 Americans conducted Sept. 8-17, 2023, by Ipsos. The survey included 500 responses from California, 399 from Texas, 340 from Florida, 282 from New York, and 237 from Pennsylvania.

There were also strikingly similar levels of support in the nation’s four regions, all of which have seen rising housing costs. Although the differences were small, it’s notable that support for accessory dwelling units, or ADUs (created by converting basements and attics to apartments or adding apartments over garages or in backyards), was strong in the West. New laws to enable this type of housing have been most common in this region, with California, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington all acting in recent years to allow more of these units. Individual Western cities, including Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Spokane, have acted as well. Despite concerns that adoption of rules allowing ADUs would lead residents to oppose their presence, their popularity in the West indicates that familiarity with this housing type has not led to “buyer’s remorse” after housing laws were relaxed.

Little Variation by Region for Policies That Encourage More Housing

Share of residents in favor of each approach

  Midwest % Northeast % South % West % U.S. total %
Allow apartments near transit or job centers 80 82 78 81 81
Allow dorms and affordable housing on college or church land 81 77 81 82 81
Allow apartments near offices, stores, restaurants 76 78 72 77 75
Allow conversion of basements and attics to apartments 70 72 73 76 73
Allow apartments over garages or in backyards 70 71 72 74 72
Require simplified, faster permitting 86 87 85 86 86
Allow commercial buildings to be converted to housing 84 81 79 79 81
Eliminate parking minimums 65 61 63 58 62
Allow town houses and small multifamily on any residential lot 56 54 60 60 58
Reduce minimum lot size 45 47 47 55 49

Notes: Results come from a nationally representative survey of 5,051 Americans conducted Sept. 8-17, 2023, by Ipsos. The survey included 1,096 responses from residents of the Midwest, 917 from the Northeast, 1,898 from the South, and 1,140 from the West.

Some state efforts to allow more housing types have faced strong opposition from local elected officials in recent years, especially in the nation’s suburbs. But that pushback does not extend to most residents of these areas. In fact, the survey shows that support for most policies to allow more housing is about as strong in the suburbs as in urban and rural areas. Although some residents have expressed concerns about new housing in community meetings, research has found that these voices are often not representative of their communities as a whole. People who live in suburbs show slightly lower levels of support for accessory dwelling units, but even on that question, about 7 in 10 were in support.

Clear Majority Support in Cities, Suburbs, and Rural Areas for Policies to Allow More Homes

Share of residents in favor of each approach

  Rural % Suburban % Urban % U.S. total %
Allow apartments near transit or job centers 80 80 81 81
Allow dorms and affordable housing on college or church land 83 80 80 81
Allow apartments near offices, stores, restaurants 73 74 77 75
Allow conversion of basements and attics to apartments 78 70 75 73
Allow apartments over garages or in backyards 79 68 74 72
Require simplified, faster permitting 86 85 87 86
Allow commercial buildings to be converted to housing 82 80 80 81
Eliminate parking minimums 71 60 60 62
Allow town houses and small multifamily on any residential lot 58 55 62 58
Reduce minimum lot size 44 47 52 49

Notes: Results come from a nationally representative survey of 5,051 Americans conducted Sept. 8-17, 2023, by Ipsos. The survey included 923 responses from rural areas, 2,463 from suburban areas, and 1,665 responses from urban areas.

The survey found widespread support for the types of policies that states, cities, and towns have been enacting to allow for construction of more and lower-cost homes. The results show little geographic division by state, region, or whether residents live in rural, suburban, or urban areas. Earlier Pew research found that in places that have updated their zoning to encourage more homes to be built, housing costs have increased more modestly than in the nation overall or in cities that have not taken similar actions. Additional research confirms the academic consensus that rents are the primary determinant of homelessness levels. Homelessness tends to rise in line with rents and decreases in places where enough housing has been added to minimize rent growth.

Alex Horowitz is a project director and Tushar Kansal is a senior officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ housing policy initiative.

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