Managing the existing housing stock: prospects and problems

by Ira S. Lowry

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Dwellings that now exist will house over three-fourths of all Americans at the end of this century. How well this inventory is managed will have more effect on housing quality over the next 20 years than will new residential construction, which annually averages about 2 percent of the inventory. In growing regions, the private market will respond quickly to increased demand for housing by peripheral development and selective improvements in central areas. Outcomes could perhaps be improved by public intervention to force more compact peripheral development and to facilitate recycling urban single-family houses, now occupied by elderly persons, into family use. Overall growth in inventory will help adapt it to current preferences. Declining regions will have a general surplus of housing concentrated in their central cities. Two kinds of public intervention would help these housing markets adjust to their prospects: demolishing the redundant stock, and subsidizing rents for low-income households.

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