Can we innovate our way out of a housing crisis? with Arica Young

Arica Young
Associate Director // Bipartisan Policy Center

Moderate Party
Moderate Party
Can we innovate our way out of a housing crisis? with Arica Young

Why does it feel like every city in America is in a housing crisis? How did rent get so high? Is homeownership an unrealistic life goal? There is no way around it — America is in a housing crisis. This week, Hillari Lombard sits down with Arica Young, the Associate Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, to find out how we got here and most importantly how we get out.

[00:00:00] Hillari Lombard: Hey guys, welcome to moderate party. I’m your host, Hillari Lombard. And today we’re going to talk about housing.

[00:00:05] News mashup: The city of lake worth beach is now declaring the housing crisis. A state of emergency, rents are continuing to rise at the fastest pace in decades. For decades. Owning a home has been one of the core parts of the American dream. Just below dating Pete Davidson. But right now. Actually buying a home is harder than Matt gates watching the new saved by the bell.

With the housing market, red hot prospective buyers are trying not to get burned as demand sores, but supply is limited.

Our main story tonight, concerns, housing, the thing that 16 year old tick-tock millionaires can afford, and you can’t.


Gentrification doesn’t happen because people build new buildings, gentrification habits, cause people don’t.

[00:00:52] Lack of affordability is weighing down the housing market as would be home buyers pumped the brakes on signing a deed .

Millions of Americans are priced out of buying a home and rents are skyrocketing to causing overall housing affordability to collapse at its fastest rate on record.


[00:01:10] Hillari Lombard: So this is bad, right? I mean, if you were alive during the great recession, The word housing crisis is enough to give you heart palpitations. And these days, I feel like I can read the news without stumbling on an article about the terrible state of housing in America.

Housing. Whether it is homeownership rent or the homeless population affects much more than where you lay your head at night. Uh, lack of affordable housing makes traffic worse. It hurts small business. It creates some stable environments for kids. It increases the homeless population. And it hurts the local economy.

Rent has outpaced inflation increasing by 18% over the last five years. The median home price in California is $883,000. Meaning that you’d have to make a minimum of $200,000 a year just to pay your mortgage. . And you know what, whatever, California’s always been expensive, but during the pandemic, something changed. The housing affordability crisis that plagued coastal areas in big cities was exported to other cities and states.

Austin Texas saw rents increased by over a hundred percent and cities like Fort Wayne, Indiana. Boise Idaho and salt lake city. They’re feeling the squeeze. It’s gotten so bad that the U S housing shortage has doubled in less than a decade. And now more than half of all Metro areas in the country have a housing shortage.

So, how did it get . This bad? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

My guest today is Erica young. She’s the associate director for the center of housing at the bipartisan policy center. And before that, she manage the U S bilateral trade relationship with Qatar. Impressive. Right. I only bring you the best.

Arica has over 25 years of experience combining research analysis and operations. In developing policies related to housing and community economic development. And it definitely shows. I hope that you guys learn half as much as I did from this conversation. And as always, , if you have thoughts on this episode or that thing that you just read the news, my inbox is always open. You can email me at

so, without further ado, here’s Arica Young.


[00:03:18] Hillari Lombard: Erica young. Hello and welcome to moderate party.

[00:03:21] Arica Young: Hi. Good morning. how are you?

[00:03:24] Hillari Lombard: I’m doing pretty well. Thank you. I guess I wanna start off with some baseline information to help our listeners understand the housing crisis. In doing a little bit of research, I found that 49% of Americans think that there’s a housing crisis in their community. And 70% of young people have a harder time buying a house than their parents did. Then, if you look at renters, one out of every seven pay over 50% of their monthly income in rent. So my question for you is how do we end up in a situation where it seems like every city in America is having a housing crisis?

[00:03:57] Arica Young: Underbuilding is the chief reason. For entry level homes. So starter homes, which generally are about 1400 square feet or smaller. We’ve been building the same number of homes almost every year since the late 1970s.

And our population is increased by almost 40%.

[00:04:16] Hillari Lombard: Oh, my God.

[00:04:18] Arica Young: So we haven’t kept up at all with housing with our. Our basic production of housing. The other thing is there’s a lot of discussion around the fact that construction has the productivity rates are relatively low compared to the overall economy. So they’ve pretty much remained stagnant for the last 20, 30 years, the production rate the productivity rate, whereas Given all of our great advances.

The overall economy productivity rate is much higher,

[00:04:52] Hillari Lombard: So what makes housing the outlier?

[00:04:55] Arica Young: basically. We build houses the way we always have. that’s the long and short of it. We traditionally build, stick, built houses and we are running up against a crisis in land. There’s a, the land cost or skyrocketing Permitting and regulations. It’s something like the national multifamily housing council did a study and showed that 40% of the production cost of a multifamily home of a multifamily building. Apartments, that sort of structure is just from regulation.

[00:05:30] Hillari Lombard: wow.

[00:05:30] Arica Young: Yeah. And so you add in the regulations you add in the fact that for land use, you look at the state of Connecticut for instance, and 80% of the land that’s zoned as residential is mandated to be one acre per home.

[00:05:49] Hillari Lombard: One acre,

[00:05:50] Arica Young: One acre, there are places where there are, it goes as high as 10 acres. It’s just we have some built in inequities in the system going back to zoning and our zoning regulations.

So, it’s driven, it’s basically made the cost of land skyrocket and it’s also slowed down the ability to produce homes faster. And then the final thing I’ll touch on is the labor shortage. We have. In aging workforce and not a lot of young people going into trades, unfortunately, and they’re great jobs.

They’re great careers. You can move up in them and do very well, but not a lot of young people and not a lot of their parents know about them, or know how much they’ve changed. They’re not just, you know, nail hammer. It’s a lot of technology is involved in the building trades now and being tech savvy is very important.

[00:06:44] Hillari Lombard: Okay. So I want to circle back to what you said earlier about regulations and zoning. One of the things that really stands out to me Is that a lot of the places that have the largest housing shortages. Or the largest increase in rents are typically cities or states that are dominated by Democrats. And I don’t bring that up necessarily to. Take a swipe at Democrats at all. But I think that there’s an interesting hypocrisy. Between the policies that politicians in these areas and the voters that elect them say they support. And the policies that politicians and the voters that elect them actually support. They say that they support policies. Centered around equality, equal access equity, propping up the middle-class economic opportunity. Social welfare programs propping up the middle-class. In fact, these are actually, these are the issues that Democrats will often. Position themselves around in contrast to republicans all those roads should lead to affordable housing. But they don’t. Often. Affordable housing projects or homeless shelters are blocked due to. Organize communities that don’t want those projects in their neighborhood. NIMBYs. Or by competing regulatory priorities. Things like environmental regulations or labor laws. So there’s a lot of talk in these blue states and cities about. The right to housing, affordable housing. But there’s not a lot of action around that. Do i have that right or am i missing something here

[00:08:22] Arica Young: I actually, the zoning. Is pretty universal across the country. It’s a, it’s really interesting. We’re one of the only countries that does this sort of single use for land in the world actually. And ironically enough, zoning originated in Germany in the late 19th century as a response to industrialization and not wanting to put factories in homes south side by side, but.

We took it to a whole different level that has resulted in basically segregating Outland. And when I say that, I mean, it, in terms of commercial here, industry here, this is residential and then residential, single family will make most of it. And we limit the amount of land that’s set aside for even duplexes or.

Multifamily. And so those are, and those regulations, you will find them. It does not matter red or blue state. They exist across the board. There are some outliers, Texas has always mentioned because places like Houston are known for being very light on regulation. And that said they have less, they have their problem with affordability is lower than in other.

[00:09:37] Hillari Lombard: So why do you think that the housing market is tighter in a lot of these big cities

[00:09:41] Arica Young: a lot of rural areas are having problems. They’re not, yes. They’re not getting a lot of coverage, but a lot of rural areas are struggling with housing. It’s a different reason. Housing production, there is a lot harder to do. To get the mass of people that you need to put in, for instance, the development.

So it drives up the cost of home production. So a lot of places, especially after the pandemic, as people have moved around are seeing that rural area. So there is nowhere in America now where they’re not experiencing a housing crisis. It’s just the question of how severe is the housing crisis.  The economy plays a big role in that places with a lot of jobs. But it’s also putting a barrier on job growth because places are finding, they can’t find workers because workers can’t afford to live there, you’re seeing it in places like Telluride, Colorado. You’re seeing it in rural Colorados where there’s, you know, there’s just. Rural, everyone talks about Boise, but rural Idaho parts of that, they can’t get workers. And this affects the hospital systems especially and it affects other jobs as well.

[00:10:47] Hillari Lombard: Yeah. I actually have family that lives in rural Northern Idaho. And they had people from the bay sending them an offer for their house in the mail.

When I was there in the spring, they were talking about how crazy the housing market is.

And they have all of these new people coming, but they don’t have enough like roads or they’re getting priced out of their own town.

[00:11:09] Arica Young: Exactly the infrastructure’s not there to support the growth. So things from roads we’re hearing about schools being stressed water supply, you know, a lot of places that are rural, they are on septic systems and Wells and they are, they don’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with the amount of growth that they’re encount.

[00:11:29] Hillari Lombard: So when we get into a situation where communities are growing at such a rapid rate, That they’re running out of water. Or. The septic system can’t take it or. The infrastructure just isn’t there. . I’m going to ask you a stupid question, but should these communities keep accepting new residents? If they don’t have the infrastructure to support them?

[00:11:52] Arica Young: I think that’s a recipe for stagnation, frankly. Newcomers, bring new ideas. They bring innovation and. A lot of times, they also wanna embrace what they see in that community as well, so they can help bring stability into the community. So I would never wanna see that limited, but I think there are creative ways that you can look at Inno through innovation and technology, whether it’s allowing graywater systems to be put in place. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with gray water systems.

[00:12:23] Hillari Lombard: Where you recycle the water from like your washing machine to water your lawn, right?

[00:12:27] Arica Young: Exactly or flush your toilets. We spend a lot of our fresh water is used to flush toilets.

[00:12:33] Hillari Lombard: Yikes.

[00:12:35] Arica Young: Yeah. We, all of the water that’s used to in our toilets is drinking water quality. Which is yes. So, there’s all sorts of innovative ways, but it requires the community to come together and decide what are their priorities and how are they gonna actually address Dealing with the growth there’s things like for homes.

I just wrote a piece on manufactured housing where they’re they run about 40 to 50% cheaper than if you were building a stick-built home and you can bring those in. Also another concept is or modular homes or which basically I like to think of as like a Lego kit or Lincoln logs where, or, and, or even more attractive, the Sears craftsman kit houses is basically what they are and you bring them in and assemble them on site.

And so there’s ways around that to address issues around water. Does everyone need one acre in a lawn?

[00:13:32] Hillari Lombard: No, I can just say definitively no,

[00:13:36] Arica Young: so it’s those little things on the ground that we need to look at in terms of the regulation of letting different types of housing that suits people. If you are aging in place Maybe one way of developing, you know, intergenerational wealth for some folks is putting in an accessory dwelling unit. And so permitting accessory dwelling unit is a great option to both increase housing supply, and also be able to profit a bit with your property.

[00:14:06] Hillari Lombard: I think the intergenerational wealth scenario that you just outlined. It’s a very positive one. Where older people can profit off of their house by collecting rent on an accessory dwelling unit. But intergenerational wealth can also exacerbate inequality. Right. Like if you bought a property in the bay area and like the seventies or eighties, what was one to cheap house is now a multi-million dollar property. So when that homeowner passes away, They’re not just passing on, they’re passing down. The wealth that they’ve accrued in that house. And then their kids can either sell it or keep it, but the wealth that was with those homeowners in the seventies and eighties becomes inherited wealth for their kids. And if you don’t have that extra boost, Then you’re starting out behind. Which would actually exacerbate income . Inequality. At the beginning of our conversation, you said that under building. Is what led to the housing crisis. Do you think that building more homes? Increasing the housing supply. Is a solution, not just to the housing crisis, but. To income inequality.

[00:15:21] Arica Young: It totally is because shelter is not just about where you live in your house. It has a whole myriad of Reverberations in your life. Everything from quality of social services that you might have access to down to AF what your errors can actually inherit. And so increasing housing supply, allowing more people to move from being renters I’ve been asked.

Why are, is rent so high? There’s a lot of people renting and a lot of people who would normally be able to move into home ownership are not able to. So allowing those people to also move into home ownership opens up more space for more renters to have more access to housing, qual, quantity, and also quality.

There’s the, you know, the ability to have quality housing in a quality community.

[00:16:14] Hillari Lombard: So if increasing the number of homes. Makes housing more affordable and also lowers rent. That sounds like a win-win to me. But it seems like all too often, we’re too politically opposed to make progress on this issue.

[00:16:28] Arica Young: Oh, I wouldn’t say we’re politically opposed. I think we have some, I mean, honestly, this is one of the most exciting areas for me because I work at the bipartisan policy center. And what we love seeing is this bipartisan group of politicians and policy makers, both parties coming in and saying, this is an issue.

What do we need to do about it? And it’s very. It’s very thrilling to see them sitting down and talking about the, a low income housing tax credit and what can they do to shore up, home ownership. It’s very exciting and I think our politicians on both sides are working really hard to try to address this because it’s a critical concern of their constituents.

[00:17:17] Hillari Lombard: So I like feeling hopeful and I like to hear that, but I’d like to push back on your hope, just a little bit to talk about public housing, cuz if we have all of this unity on this issue, which I’m happy to hear that you’re seeing signs that we do have. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the collapse in our public housing.

We don’t have the government building housing at the rate that they once did. And the public housing that we do have has largely fallen into disarray.  I guess I’m curious, why don’t we see more investment in public housing?

[00:17:56] Arica Young:

So this is one area where there’s general broad consensus on both sides, that there is a problem with public housing and different ideas on how to solve that. So basically the government got out of building new, a lot of new public housing. The big burst kind of ended in the sixties.

But what you do see instead is the hope six project, which. Took public housing from being these isolated let’s call them warehouses where people were shut off from the rest of the community, where they had. A lack of being able to, you know, they ended up in food deserts and they were basically shut down and decided to rethink that in terms of trying to build middle income and to get the private sector involved so that you weren’t putting people into these sort of warehouse situations where they might have felt isolated.

And I think it’s also hard to talk about. The state of public housing, Brit large, because they’re bright spots in certain places, New York city. For instance, they have a very vibrant tenant association in a lot of the public housing there. And they’ve worked hard to try to get their public housing addressed and other cities that’s not necessarily the case.

So it comes down a. A social capital to people networking, but some of the ideas are to, for instance, house the vouchers program or what, or section eight, those are all ways to try to shore up. Quality housing options for people without stigmatizing them and putting them into places that may not have the best strongest quality development and social community and sustainable community for them.

[00:19:45] Hillari Lombard: I think vouchers are interesting because we have people that are waiting years to get a voucher, which I would say would also go back to a lack of investment in public housing.

[00:19:56] Arica Young: Public housing is not vouchers. So vouchers are to get housing on the open market.

[00:20:03] Hillari Lombard: right, right. I guess, assisted housing maybe

[00:20:06] Arica Young: right. And so we are actually advocating at the center at the bipartisan center to To strengthen the voucher system to expand the number of vouchers to increase the amount. I know also that HUD is looking at revising the The schedule that they use, the rent schedule that they use that determines fair rent value, fair market value, or fair market rent in a particular community.

They that’s what they go by when they determine each city, how much. The rent should be and what part they should pay in that gap. So we’re, we are working with a lot of people. Congress is looking at this, there’s a lot of policy makers here in DC who are actively trying to address the fact that we have a problem with either not enough vouchers, but in some places, believe it or not, it’s also.

They can’t use the vouchers. People are finding that they the vouchers just are inadequate for them to get access to housing in quality communities.

[00:21:10] Hillari Lombard: And is that like, they’re not enough or is it that landlords don’t accept them.

[00:21:15] Arica Young: it’s a combination of both. It’s a combination of both in some places it’s mandated there’s a lot of regulations that you have to go through. once again, we go back to the R word.

There’s a lot. Yes. Red tape. There’s a lot of regulations, annual annual inspections that have to be done and annual paperwork that has to be filed. And it becomes a bit of a burden for landlords to have to file all of the paperwork. Annually to accept the vouchers.

And then the other problem is the flip side, is the vouchers cover up to a certain amount, but if the time, the schedule of what the rent should be, doesn’t match the reality on the ground of how much the rent actually is your ability to use those vouchers also declines.

[00:22:05] Hillari Lombard: So if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that like vouchers are a good program that needs more support and more funding.

[00:22:14] Arica Young: Yes,

[00:22:15] Hillari Lombard: One thing I’ve witnessed in California is that we keep telling our representatives that we want more housing and we want them to come up with a solution to our ballooning homeless population. We even vote to increase taxes on ourselves to build these shelters or to increase affordable housing. And this all brings us back to a conversation surrounding cost.

Because we’re voting for these measures to increase supply.

And I think that, especially in California, we’re seeing a lot of efforts dedicated to subsidizing the cost of housing.

But in the voucher example that we talked about, I actually see that creating a different problem. If we increased the number of vouchers like you were suggesting. But we don’t increase the supply of housing. Isn’t that just a race to the bottom.

[00:22:55] Arica Young: You totally nailed it at the heart of it all is housing supply and it’s not just housing supply at the top end it’s housing supply. It’s a variety of housing. We need to get the number of entry level homes up. We need to get different housing. Not everyone wants needs, like you said, one acre, two acres, five acres.

Not everyone wants a single family home, so we need a variety of housing types. And we need a lot more houses that’s at the heart of it.

[00:23:30] Hillari Lombard: Okay. So you said that the government got out of the business of building housing in the sixties. Do you think that was a good idea?

[00:23:36] Arica Young: There were a lot of problems that were still rectifying and , this is a hard question. It depends on how you do public housing and the way that it was done was problematic. I don’t think there’s anybody who thought that the clearance project, the clearance programs that took place in the post-war period were well thought out.

And they feel like they did a lot of harm. That there’s a sense. They did a lot of. And a lot of attention has been played placed on the highways and how many communities were displaced for highways. But a lot of communities were displaced with the idea of we’ll put them into public housing.

And the way we did public housing, frankly, was very problematic.

[00:24:28] Hillari Lombard: Can I just pause you when you say clearance programs, just for our listeners, that might not be familiar with the term you’re talking about when the government cleared communities and replaced them with highways and displace the people that lived in them.

[00:24:39] Arica Young: Yes. And in some cases also displaced communities to put in projects, public housing.

[00:24:46] Hillari Lombard: Oh my God. Okay. Got rid of housing to build housing. That makes

[00:24:50] Arica Young: Huh,

exactly. Because you know, there was a sense that they were living in substandard housing and so they would build new housing for them. So they tore down. So it wasn’t just for the highways.

They did it, they all, they went in and cleared down complete neighborhoods, not just for highways, but also for public housing.

And. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who thinks that’s a great idea.

[00:25:12] Hillari Lombard: no.

[00:25:12] Arica Young: And so that’s kind of the legacy. I’m very familiar with some of the efforts that have been done in other countries, like in Austria.

But it was a different approach. So I have a hard time saying yes or no on public housing. I just think what’s important is how it’s.

[00:25:29] Hillari Lombard: And do you think that there is a path forward for the us to do a better job at public housing? Or do you think that we should focus more on Not building directly, but subsidizing through voucher programs or tax incentives.

[00:25:44] Arica Young: I think there’s room for both, because you now have multiple generations of people. Who’ve lived in public housing and they have built up networks and they have built up communities around them. So I would never. Say wanna say that, you know, it doesn’t matter. I know in fact in Alexandria, Virginia, we have some very vibrant public housing communities.

But I think it has to be at all hands on deck, I think is all of the above. So I think we need low income mixed use housing. I think we need to shore up and make sure we have quality public housing that, that we do have. We keep it. Working order, but also where it’s energy efficient and sustainable. So I think it’s all of the above.

There’s no one solution. I will never agree with just one idea is the best. I think you can’t bring people to the table that way.

[00:26:38] Hillari Lombard: You mentioned Austria’s approach to public housing do you think that the United States has a different culture built around housing than other countries?

[00:26:45] Arica Young: Ooh. Yes. to take me long to answer that one. Yes, I do. I think many, I think there is a difference in a lot of different countries. In the us, we value home ownership. We value the single family home with the lawn.

[00:27:01] Hillari Lombard: A one acre lawn.

[00:27:02] Arica Young: Yes. Is true in north America in general.

So this would include Canada. I think you see this as well as in Australia going going across the world. But yeah, that’s what we really do push for. That single family home ideal. And part of it is, I think we have the land for it. A lot of other countries don’t have the land for it. So they never developed that.

The zoning makes us very unique. In terms of single using our land so that, you know, it’s not mixed use, it’s not commercial and residential. And frankly I grew up living over my parents’ bakery. My parents had a bakery and we lived over it and that’s not the norm these days. The other thing is frankly, I benefited from the fact that we had, we were at a mass transit hub, I lived the mixed use stream. So yeah that you could see the roots of why I’m in urban planning, but what, we don’t have a good sense of that I think differ that’s differing is we have more, I think we’re less keen on supporting renters.

We have. I think I read recently that renters generally are not quite as involved in a lot of decision making around land use. And these are all local issues that really impact them. It’s tends to be dominated by homeowners and that I think is a big difference. And so also what we consider housing is just it.

We really traditionally have just viewed housing is where you live. It’s your house. It’s where you live. And I think in other communities, because they don’t have as much land, the idea has always been a bit more holistic

and we’re getting

there, meaning that you should be able to walk to the grocery.

You walk to school you bike to school, the. Dependence on cars, isn’t there. And that’s not to say that you don’t have that in Europe. There’s a complete misunderstanding. If that some people have, they live in suburbs, they have cars, a lot of them. But there’s still on the, at the core level.

There’s still an idea that you should be able to do X without a car.

[00:29:09] Hillari Lombard: so focused more on housing as community development rather than an actual house.

[00:29:15] Arica Young: Right. And so also the other, the biggest change difference I would say is that the us is one of the only of the O E C D countries, the west, the organization of economic cooperation and development. The top

economies. Yes. Yeah. That we don’t have a national housing policy, a lot of places.

There’s no state housing policy. Whereas in many countries, particularly in Europe, they have national housing policy.

[00:29:41] Hillari Lombard: Can you explain that a little bit further? What is the difference between a national housing policy and what we have?

[00:29:48] Arica Young: So housing is a local issue. Most of the rules and regulations that guide housing. So a lot of the regulations that I’ve mentioned in terms of land use things that also drive up cost is parking. People don’t realize this, but a lot of places will mandate that for every unit, you have to have two parking spaces.

So if each parking space is an extra $15,000, if it’s above ground, that is added to the cost of that.

[00:30:16] Hillari Lombard: right. Okay.

[00:30:17] Arica Young: It doesn’t matter if sit on top of a subway or major transit line, you’re still mandating that they have two cars per unit two parking spaces, per unit.

[00:30:30] Hillari Lombard: Which also assumes a certain degree of wealth, right?

[00:30:32] Arica Young: Exactly. Right? Exactly. It assumes a certain level of wealth. It assumes that you need those two cars. Not

only do you have them, but you need them. And so these are all decisions that are made at the local level that affect the cost of a home and home production. In other countries, they set their land, use priorities at a national level.

And so it, it changes the dynamic in terms of what you’re able to put forth in terms and what you do. Frankly it doesn’t allow for as much nibi.

[00:31:10] Hillari Lombard: Do you think that’s viable in the United States?

[00:31:13] Arica Young: I don’t see that at all, as an option in the us, that’s not it’s just antithetical to how the American political system and our history.

It’s just, no,

[00:31:23] Hillari Lombard: Are you implying that people in this country don’t like the federal government telling them what to do?

[00:31:27] Arica Young: It’s not, it’s more, you know what, they’re okay with the federal government telling them to do certain things, but when it comes to land use policy people really feel strongly that it’s a community. Issue that how they live in their towns and in their cities should be decided on the local level, by the people most affected by it versus somebody in a different city.

So, I mean, in a different part of a country, so it’s just a different way of looking at it.

[00:31:54] Hillari Lombard: Do you think that more state housing policy. Would be like an in-between or do you think that we just need to make peace with this hyper-local system

[00:32:03] Arica Young: You’re seeing more states taking back control over land use issues. And the results are mixed so far because also it’s really recent. The problem. I, this is another one where I think people have to decide what they want because if the state takes it over and you’re living in a community that for state do a lot of their regulations based on a handful of their largest cities and you’re living in a rural community, they may be making regulations for you that are completely irrelevant.

[00:32:38] Hillari Lombard: right.

[00:32:41] Arica Young: I think allowing a strong level of local control is very important. It really is because the only people who really can respond to what you’re doing in your community, it’s you folks living there?

[00:32:54] Hillari Lombard: Of course I don’t think any outsider can ever know a community better than the people that live there. Completely agree.


Hey guys, pardon the interruption. But I just wanted to let you know that we’re gearing up to do another round of no stupid questions. For those of you who aren’t familiar? No stupid questions is a segment that we do on the show sometimes where we take listener questions and answer them on air.

The focus of the upcoming segment is going to be the inflation reduction act and the Biden administration, student loan debt forgiveness but if you have questions about, other topics, you can submit those to if I don’t answer them on air, I’ll save them for an additional segment or just respond to you. One-on-one.

So if you’d like to participate, visit us Forward slash questions. I can’t stress enough. How much I enjoy hearing from you guys. It’s probably one of my favorite things about doing the show. And this is just another way that I get to engage with you guys.

And honestly, some of your questions are really hard. And require me to do a lot of research, but I’ll do it. And I’ll give you the best answer that I can. So I look forward to hearing from you. One more time. That’s moderate party, And I won’t take up any more of your time.

Without further ado, let’s get back to our show.


[00:34:03] Hillari Lombard:

I want to pivot our conversation a little bit to focus on innovation and housing. Cause when I was reading some of your work what struck me is all of the reasons there are to be excited about innovation in the housing space. So, can we just start with you talking me through how we can innovate the actual construction of homes?

[00:34:22] Arica Young: Yes. It’s really interesting. When I mentioned the productivity issue, a lot of people are talking about how the construction industry is quote, ripe for disruption. I don’t know exactly how that plays out, but it sounds good. Right? But there are some really interesting things going on.

And one of them is 3d printing. There are groups that companies now that are basically, you can go in and lay down the foundation of the house and the walls with a 3d printer and shave, you know, 20% of the time off of your production schedule and construction time is actually money it’s actually cost.

So the longer it takes you to build something the more it’s gonna cost. So, if you can cut that cost down, same thing with prefab. If you can cut that cost down that time, use down, you can cut the cost down. The other things like prefab allow you to do as well as 3d is you can use lower levels of labor input, which we’re gonna need because most recently I think I heard that the average age of a plumbers in their late fifties.

[00:35:32] Hillari Lombard: Oh, gosh. boy.

[00:35:34] Arica Young: Right.

[00:35:34] Hillari Lombard: I’m stressed out by how many related issues there are to housing

[00:35:40] Arica Young: yeah. I mean, one of the ideas that I really strongly believe that really could help is if we brought back things like shop into just regular school, not put it off into just VO tech, but bring it back into regular high schools and middle schools letting kids tinker

[00:36:00] Hillari Lombard: Did we get rid

of shop?

[00:36:01] Arica Young: a lot of places.

Yeah, a lot of places eliminated shop. It started disappearing with the rise in, in frankly in standardized testing. The time that it would’ve been needed, the same way as Jim disappeared and recess disappeared shop has disappeared and, you know, kids learn in all sorts of ways and there is a satisfaction in making something with your own hands.

And it allows kids to explore all the ways that they can learn and all the things that they can do. And we’re losing that. And ironically enough shop is a lot of tech. Now it’s a lot of programming computers. So I really would love to see that brought back into schools more robustly.

[00:36:47] Hillari Lombard: Yeah. I was forced to build one hell of a birdhouse. Let me tell you

[00:36:52] Arica Young: It’s not everybody’s forte, but at least you can say you tried.

[00:36:55] Hillari Lombard: Yeah, and I liked it.

[00:36:57] Arica Young: Yeah. And that’s part of that. Innovation is coming up with a new, a young workforce that’s tech savvy. That’s part of the innovation they’re building in. You know, the things like it’s building information management where , you basically design the building in 3d everybody’s part is put in there, not just the structural, but the structural, the electrical, the water, and you can literally see how it all is supposed to fit together.

And the team can work on that, that basic 3d blueprint together. it helps save time,

[00:37:30] Hillari Lombard: Which saves money

[00:37:31] Arica Young: which saves.

[00:37:33] Hillari Lombard: and are these prefabricated homes or 3d printed homes, more sustainable?

[00:37:40] Arica Young: They can be one of the nice things about a modular homes as well. Also panelization systems, all of these things what’s really great about them is once you have them being able to be produced in a factory, you can ensure that they fit together better that they not only are easier to assemble. You don’t need as much skilled labor to put them together, but that they create a rather tight building envelope.

And what that building envelope, when it’s really tight, what that does is that lowers your heating and cooling cost, which makes up a substantial portion of your operating expense for houses. And for a lot of, for instance, lower income households, they spend an inordinate amount of money on their heating and cooling bills because a lot of times they’re living in.

Buildings or older units that are not particularly energy efficient.

[00:38:32] Hillari Lombard: Got it.

[00:38:33] Arica Young: address that.

[00:38:35] Hillari Lombard: So I think that one of my last questions for you is a bit of an oddball question. I recently read an article in current affairs that I believe it was by Nathaniel Robinson that said that the way that California should solve its housing crisis is by creating new cities and town. What do you think?

[00:38:57] Arica Young: Basically what he’s saying is build houses. I mean, honestly that my takeaway from that statement is housing production is what he’s basically saying.

I don’t know that’s really a, if that’s a realistic solution And believe it or not, we do that anyhow, because you look at what were the top five cities in America in 1960. And you look at what are the top five cities in the us now, or the top 10 cities. They’re different cities.

You know, Baltimore was one of the top five cities in America, 50 years ago.

[00:39:38] Hillari Lombard: mm-hmm.

[00:39:39] Arica Young: It’s not anymore. We do a good job of that on our own. We move to where it’s advantageous for us to live and for us to develop.

[00:39:48] Hillari Lombard: Which is also interesting, cuz like if you’re trying to rebuild a region, making housing affordable brings in new people, brings in new innovation and I mean, can revitalize a city, right?

[00:40:00] Arica Young: Yes, exactly. Exactly. So I’m not sure. I mean, and I would question like, who’s supposed to decide what these cities are, these new towns and cities are and where are they? And it’s not a new idea. It goes, you know, we’ve been doing this since the industrial revolution period.

And I don’t mean just the company towns, but you had the new deal towns, like, green, Maryland.

That we tried this in the 1930s, you have the garden city’s concept. So it’s been tried before. What tends to happen is they’re not too far from an existing big city, and then they just basically become a suburb of that in 50 years.

[00:40:37] Hillari Lombard: Yeah. When I mean, when I read it, I was like, that is wild.

[00:40:41] Arica Young: Yeah it’s an interesting idea. It’s an interesting idea. I love all ideas that you know, that you can sink your teeth

into. But I think it’s really also important to try to address what we have right now.

[00:40:57] Hillari Lombard: Yeah. I, yes, I would agree is that if you have a problem, you don’t just get to move somewhere else and try

[00:41:02] Arica Young: right. right. And it’s not. And like I said, it’s not a new idea actually. I mean, there are some very vibrant towns that came out of the idea of moving away from, for instance, crowded N. Disease written cities of the industrial period. And there’s still some very successful suburbs. And ironically, what I find very fascinating is that some of these suburbs that appeared in the 1920s, the sort of streetcar suburbs, they experienced a downturn.

As entering suburbs and then have been revitalized again because they are entering suburbs. So things change, the economy changes, technology changes. So I won’t say that they’ve, it’s been a bad idea at all. I think it’s an interesting idea to explore.

[00:41:51] Hillari Lombard: okay. So what are three things that make you feel hopeful about our current housing situation?

[00:41:58] Arica Young: Three things. The first one would have to be the fact that there is a growing consensus across both parties,

Also across the country. So it’s not just. City, coastal cities, but that we’ve got coastal cities. We have rural we have mid America, American cities, second and third tier cities. And we have rural areas all coming together to say, Hey, this is a problem.

And we need to think about it. And we have people turning their energy to it and their minds to it. So that’s what makes me probably the most hopeful second I love some of the new ideas around that. There people really are thinking creatively about actually doing prefab in modular homes. Prefab’s not new, we’ve tried it multiple times, but I think this, the housing shortage has given us a unique chance to really sink our teeth into it and try to reap the benefits from.

So that’s another thing that, that gives me hope and the greater focus on energy sustainability and social sustainability. Like what does it take to make a sustainable community that people wanna live in?

[00:43:06] Hillari Lombard: . I mean, I think that all three of those make me feel hopeful and I hear you talk about them. I always try to close out by asking. is there a question that I should have asked you? And I didn’t.

[00:43:17] Arica Young: I guess we didn’t talk much. I mean, I mentioned it at the end, but I guess we didn’t talk much about the resilience in communities. That that’s an important one. And I tie resilience in community, along with preservation of housing stock. We talked a lot about producing new homes, but we didn’t talk much about what do we have to do to shore up our existing housing stock because we have the oldest housing stock in American history right now.

[00:43:43] Hillari Lombard: Wow.

[00:43:43] Arica Young: And. If we’re going to talk about where it’s located and its ability to manage, or the people who live in it, their ability to manage climate change is complicated. Like I said, the rent burdens for people on U for utilities can be stagger. At the point where they’re already paying 50% for rent and then they have to cover utilities on top of that.

And they’re where they’re living is not particularly energy efficient, so it’s costing them more to heat and cool.

[00:44:15] Hillari Lombard: so what does it look like to shore up that supply?

[00:44:17] Arica Young: Strengthening weatherization programs. The U S D a does it for community rural communities. They have a grant program. A lot of states have weatherization programs. But I think we need to see more resources go into that into into weatherizing houses and improving their energy efficiency moving them to where they have better heating and cooling systems and things.

Sometimes it’s just as simple as going in and caulking around windows and doors. But people don’t know to do that or how to do that. And so it’s being able to do those things as well as the final thing is housing modifications. So it, for people who are other abled and challenged with mobility issues making sure they can stay in their.

So being able to afford to do modifications for their homes to stay in them,

[00:45:06] Hillari Lombard: Like, are you talking about things like like ramps or,

[00:45:10] Arica Young: ramps, widening doorways,


in some cases lowering counter spaces

or putting in different toilets. So not just putting in a new water, efficient toilet, but putting a water efficient toilet, that’s at a size that anyone could use it

[00:45:27] Hillari Lombard: .Yeah. Cause I would imagine that we leave that burden on the people that that need it, that are often not in a position to,

Wow. I didn’t, I haven’t really thought about that. That’s hard.

[00:45:40] Arica Young: Yeah.

[00:45:40] Hillari Lombard: When you think about shoring up our existing housing, do you see the main areas being in the climate change and accessibility areas, or do you see other places that we need to shore up our supply?

[00:45:52] Arica Young: I think we always need to be aware. Are there communities out there that are in what we call food deserts? So where, you know, it would take them, there are places where it takes you an hour to get to a grocery store where you can have fresh fruits and vegetables. And so we need to think about those.

How do you ensure that every community is a community of.

[00:46:13] Hillari Lombard: Ooh, I like that. Tell me more.

[00:46:15] Arica Young: it’s a com it’s a combination of making sure that communities really do serve the needs of the people around them. Do they have green space? Do they have access to a doctor? Do they have access to a quality school? Those are all really important. Are there shopping op opportunities? So those are all things.

Are really important. If we wanna create communities that are holistically healthy, mentally, physically they’re safe and secure and people feel comfortable in them.

[00:46:52] Hillari Lombard: So. How do people keep up with the work that you’re doing on housing or learn more about these exciting ideas?

[00:47:01] Arica Young: So I am at the bipartisan policy center and we have a new center, the Ronald to Willer center for housing policy bipartisan and um, They can, we have regular webinars. We have one that’s gonna be September 1st. I just did one on labor. So we have links to that. We have links to my colleagues and I, the articles that we write, the blog pieces that we write.

So that’s some of the ways you can keep up. We’re also on Twitter and Facebook on LinkedIn.

[00:47:32] Hillari Lombard: All right. Wonderful. Erica, I really appreciate you coming on the show to answer all of my

[00:47:36] Arica Young: I was really glad to be here today. This has been a pleasure.

[00:47:40] Hillari Lombard: Wonderful. I hope that we can have you back on some time.

[00:47:42] Arica Young: Hope so too.

[00:47:43] Hillari Lombard: All right guys, that’s it for today. As always, if you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe, like rate review, whatever options are available on the platform, you’re listening to it on.

And I will see you guys next week all right. That’s it. Stay safe, guys.


Associate Director // Bipartisan Policy Center

Arica Young is the Associate Director of BPC’s Terwilliger Center for Housing. Prior to joining BPC, Young managed the U.S. bilateral trade relationships with Qatar and countries in the Maghreb.

Young has over 25 years’ experience combining research, analysis, and operations in developing policies related to housing and community economic development. Specifically, she has spent over 10 years researching policies such as sustainable communities, alternative community planning models, and social capital in residential communities. Young gained congressional experience as a staff economist on the Joint Economic Committee Senate Majority Staff under the Chairmanship of Senator Robert Bennett.

Young holds a PhD in Planning, Governance and Globalization from Virginia Tech and earned an M.A. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Ms. Young was a Fulbright scholar in Vienna, Austria and a Robert Bosch Fellow in Germany.

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