Is the 'Housing Shortage' the Result of Housing-Hoarding by the Wealthy?

Those seeking to buy a house as shelter for their household can’t compete with the wealthy seeking assets to snap up and hoard for appreciation.

Longtime readers know I’ve been addressing housing issues from the start of the blog in 2005. Let’s start with the general context of housing in the US, courtesy of the US Census Bureau, which tracks occupancy and the number of housing units nationally: Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership, 4th Quarter 2023

All housing units 145,967,000

Confederate Wizards of... Young, Bennett Henderson Buy New $24.99 (as of 06:22 UTC - Details) Occupied 131,206,000
Owner 86,220,000 59%
Renter 44,985,000 31%

Vacant 14,761,000 10%

Non-seasonal (i.e. not second homes owned by the wealthy for their recreational use) 11,177,000

Units vacant because they’re in the process of being rented or sold:
For rent 3,224,000
For sale only 757,000
Rented or Sold 783,000

Held off Market (occasional use, temporarily occupied, other) 6,414,000

Seasonal (i.e. second homes owned by the wealthy for their recreational use) 3,583,000

TOTAL Held off Market and Seasonal / Recreational: 9,997,000

In summary: there are 14.7 million vacant dwellings in the US, of which 10 million are not available for year-round rentals or sale. Those 10 million dwellings are comparable to the total number of dwellings in entire nations, for example, Australia (11 million housing units, population of 27 million).

There are many complexities not specified or included in these statistics. For example, vacant dwellings located in rural locales with few jobs might be empty because there is little demand due to a declining population. Other dwellings may no longer be habitable without renovation or repair. Exploring the Southern... Institute, Abbeville Best Price: $24.00 Buy New $15.95 (as of 04:32 UTC - Details)

On the other side of the equation, non-permitted dwellings (granny flats, etc.) may also be uncounted as those answering Census Bureau questionnaires might hesitate to report units added without official approval. This can include everything from RVs parked alongside homes to converted garages to living rooms partitioned off and rented out as quasi-bedrooms.

The vagarities of self-reported data are potentially major factors in counting short-term vacation rentals, a.k.a. AirBnB / VRBO-type rentals. Data remains sketchy on exactly how many housing units are being “held off the market” as short-term vacation rentals. As of 2023, there were 2,459,260 available vacation rental listings in the U.S., but this may not include informal rentals, rentals listed outside of the major platforms, etc.

The Census Bureau offers several estimates of seasonal units: 3.6 million in the above link, and 4.3 million vacant seasonal units in this post: See a Vacant Home? It May Not be For Sale or Rent. These are traditionally second or third homes of wealthy households. but many such properties are now being offered as short-term vacation rentals for periods when the owners aren’t using the property.

Read the Whole Article