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Solving the Housing Crisis will Require Fighting Monopolies in Construction

Working Paper 773 | Published December 11, 2020

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James A. Schmitz, Jr. Senior Research Economist
Solving the Housing Crisis will Require Fighting Monopolies in Construction


U.S. government concerns about great disparities in housing conditions are at least 100 years old. For the first 50 years of this period, U.S. housing crises were widely considered to stem from the failure of the construction industry to adopt new technology -- in particular, factory production methods. The introduction of these methods in many industries had already greatly narrowed the quality of goods consumed by low- and high-income Americans. It was widely known why the industry failed to adopt these methods: Monopolies in traditional construction blocked and sabotaged them. Very little has changed in the last 50 years. The industry still fails to adopt factory methods, with monopolies, like HUD and NAHB, blocking attempts to adopt them. As a result, the productivity record of the construction industry has been horrendous. One thing has changed. Today there is very little discussion of factory-built housing; of the very few that recognize the industry's failure to adopt factory methods, there is no realization that monopolies are blocking the methods. That these monopolies, in particular, HUD and NAHB, can cause so much hardship in our country, and through misinformation and deceit cover it up, seems almost beyond belief. But, unfortunately, it's a history that is not uncommon. There are many other industries where monopolies have inflicted great harm on Americans, like the tobacco industry, yet through misinformation and deceit cover up the great harm.