comment 1

English-speaking countries don’t like apartments

A lack of affordable housing certainly feels like a global phenomenon. Companies are trying to 3D-print homes for under $100k. Berlin froze apartment rents back in 2019 because things were getting too expensive. And today, Hong Kong is working on building some sort of “light public housing” in an effort to reduce its massive wait times for new homes.

But depending on where you are in the world, it might be somewhat comforting to remember that this problem seems to be particularly pronounced, here, in English-speaking countries. Whether it’s restrictive zoning rules or a general distaste for apartments and urban density, the English-speaking world has fallen behind on housing supply compared to places like continental Europe.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent FT article:

Forty years ago, the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland had roughly 400 homes per 1,000 residents, level with developed continental European countries. Since then the two groups have diverged, the Anglosphere standing still while western Europe has pulled clear to 560 per 1,000.

And this shows in our home prices:

One argument is that continental Europe is simply more culturally accepting of apartment buildings, and that allows more new homes to be built. Seems right:

According to this chart, the average person from the UK or the US would not be happy unless they were living in a detached house. When you get to the continent, people start to become increasingly more positive around missing middle-type housing (something in the 3-4 storey range). Though, anything more than that and things get divided.

All in all, it doesn’t seem to really matter where you’re from, there’s a clear preference for detached housing. But maybe liking apartments even a little bit is all you need to help with overall housing supply.

1 Comment so far

  1. Michael Johnson

    These “breakthrough” 3-D print houses will have to be singletons on their own lots, whether large or small. No apartments coming from that direction.


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