The Old Urbanist (Charlie Gardner) recently published an interesting post talking about the origins of American zoning using the work of Professor Sonia Hirt and her new book, Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation.
One of the central themes in his post is the American (and Canadian) fixation on single-family homes:
…the United States is the only developed country of those surveyed, apart from Canada, to widely employ single-family detached residential zones that bar all commercial and multifamily uses.
And the reason for this is largely because of two longstanding beliefs in American (and again Canadian) culture: Your goal should be to become a homeowner, and that home should ideally be a single-family detached home.
But there’s lots of evidence to suggest that these legal protections (and many of the other things being done to encourage/subsidize homeownership) aren’t actually that effective at driving up homeownership.
In his post, Charlie includes a chart showing the percentage of detached homes and the homeownership rates for various countries (data is from 2013/2014). I sorted it based on homeownership and added urbanization rates to see if there was any correlation (doesn’t appear to be).
The US and Canada are quite good at putting lots of people in detached housing (though not as good as Australia!), but the homeownership rates are nowhere near the top. In fact, the US falls in the lower half.
Did you think the homeownership rate would be higher in the US?