The nation’s housing shortage, 6.5 million homes, is an out-of-control crisis, according to CNN’s dire warning last month. Between 2012 and 2022, 15.6 million households were formed. During the same period, 13 million housing units (9 million single-family homes and 4 million multi-family homes) were started. Of the 13 million, 11.9 million were completed (8.5 million single-family homes and 3.4 million multi-family homes).
In 2021’s second half and the first part of 2022, the fast-paced building spurt continued. Then, with the Federal Reserve determined that slowing inflation was essential, interest rates including those on mortgages rose, and housing demand cooled. Builders backed away from single-family housing starts. The solution to the shortage, CNN predicted, would be to triple the single-family home housing starts which would, within three or four years, close the existing 6.5 million shortage, and keep up with new demand.
The CNN story mentioned, but did not elaborate on, the shortage’s cause: in 2022, the U.S. saw the last decade’s highest annual household formation level with 2.06 million new households. Population growth, long ignored by Congress and the establishment media as toxic and unmentionable, drives the need for more development. The equation between ever-more people and the need to build homes for them is obvious, but unmentionable. Accelerating growth remains taboo because the subject will eventually come around to immigration, an even more uncomfortable topic.
The math that the Census Bureau and other federal agencies provide is inarguable. Every year, more than 1 million permanent residents enter the U.S. Another 1 million arrive on temporary employment visas. Whether they return to their home countries or not, they need housing during their visa’s term. Since Biden’s inauguration, his administration’s open border policy has welcomed about 5 million asylum seekers, with millions more to come before the president’s 2024 re-election bid.
Add more than 2 million gotaways — the 1.2 million to date that Customs and Border Protection knows about and the roughly million certain to elude border agents in the next 18 months. During the Biden administration’s four years, between 10 and 15 million legal permanent residents, guest workers, asylum seekers and gotaways will need housing. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2060 the nation’s immigrant population will rise from its current 14.3 percent to 17.1 percent of the total U.S. population.
The powerful pro-growth lobby maintains a $60 million Capitol Hill presence, and Congress’ informal motto is “the more, the better,” especially if it makes donors’ wishes come true. The list of negatives that over-development worsens is long. Among them are biodiversity loss, carbon emission increases and overcrowding. At the top of the list, however, are water shortages, a problem so acute that the Biden administration has proposed cutting the Colorado River’s water allotments delivered to California, Arizona and Nevada by as much as one-quarter. The Colorado River provides drinking water to 40 million Americans and irrigates 5.5 million agricultural acres.
With water running low and development an increasing environmental scourge, a responsible federal government would comply with the requirement to weigh the environmental effect on any new policies it enacts; opening the Southwest and Northern Borders would be such a policy. The National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act require an environmental impact study. But like U.S. immigration laws, the Biden administration ignores the federally mandated obligation to conduct environmental impact studies, perhaps because it knows that the results would be catastrophic to developers and to Biden’s commitment to mass immigration.
Immigration and births to immigrants are the biggest population growth drivers in the U.S. As long as the status quo continues, housing demand will be impossible to fully satisfy. Good luck to builders tackling that challenge, especially in the increasingly dry Southwest, and good luck to the established neighborhoods that will have to cope with the quality-of-life-altering sprawl that overdevelopment creates.
Joe Guzzardi writes about immigration issues and impacts.