Applied Housing Research Initiative

School of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement

Distinguished Speaker 2019

Dr. Dowell Myers
University of Southern California

“Can Indirect Strategies Reduce Shortages, Restrain Housing Cannibals, and Promote Affordability?”

Presentation Slides

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The SFSU PACE Applied Housing Research Initiative held its second annual Distinguished Speaker Event–with a reception and lecture–on Thursday, October 17, 2019 at our downtown campus (835 Market Street).

Our distinguished speaker was Dr. Dowell Myers, director of Population Dynamics Research Group and professor of policy, planning, and demography at Sol Price School of Public Policy at University of Southern California.

The speaker series is supported by a generous gift from Merritt Community Capital Corporation.

Abstract: Solutions to housing problems don’t always lie where the problems appear. Indirect solutions may go to the root causes, be more broadly distributed, and yield the mass benefits required for solving such a massive problem. This talk reports on recent research to reassess the causes of the housing crisis, which is nationwide, and places the Bay Area in context of other large metros. A puzzling finding is that affordability problems for renters in the Bay Area can be measured as lower than in Midwestern cities or lower than the national average. Yet the popular rent-burden indicator only counts the survivor households, not the many others made to disappear by lack of available housing. We solve the measurement problem of the disappeared households with new population and jobs-based estimates of the number of normally expected occupied units.These new estimates better describe the housing shortages driving affordability problems and explain desperate home seekers’ downward raiding and cannibalization of working-class housing. The problems are deep-seated and seem insoluble, yet four indirect strategies can help. First, a seeming paradox is that restoring homeownership for Millennials and others could improve rental affordability by lightening the rental competition. Similarly, greater construction of middle or luxury housing also would siphon demand away from lower-income competition. New housing for seniors has particular multiplier benefits of stimulating turnover and creating vacancy chains for younger households. Finally, over the longer-run, new middle-class housing provides future opportunities for low-income households, but new research shows these traditional filtering benefits have been blocked since 2010, and even worked in reverse, because of the broad housing shortages.

Dr. Dowell Myers is a professor of policy, planning, and demography in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at University of Southern California. He is a leading expert on the changing demographics in California and the United States and how those dynamics interact with markets, politics, and policy making. Dr. Myers is the most recognized specialist in the U.S. on how demographic trends drive housing and real estate. He was designated Dean of Demographics for Hanley Wood’s HIVE conference (2016), served eight years as an Academic Fellow of the Urban Land Institute, and also served on the professional advisory committee to the Census Bureau. Dr. Myers has been the leading scholar of housing needs in California since the 1990s. As part of the California experience, he grew to be an expert on immigration, assimilation, and the dynamics for housing, including both overcrowding and homeownership. His long-range forecasts for homeownership, focusing on effects of Baby Boomers and Millennials, appeared in the APA Journal (2008), HUD’s Cityscape journal (2016) and the Journal of Housing Economics (2019). His recent research has been sponsored by Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Multi Housing Council, and the Lucile Packard Foundation. The Haynes Foundation in Los Angeles sponsors his current research on housing shortages, rental affordability and housing needs in California. Dr. Myers was recently recognized with the Dale Prize for Excellence in Planning Scholarship (2017) and his studies on demographics and housing have twice received the Best Article award from the Journal of the American Planning Association. Dr. Myers holds his PhD from MIT, a Master of City Planning from UC-Berkeley, and a BA in anthropology from Columbia University. Many of his publications are available at USC Population Dynamics Research Group website.

Seed funding from Merritt Community Capital Corporation is greatly appreciated.

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