By Eric Crampton 20/11/2015


A few months ago, when there was more pressure on government to increase the refugee quota, one of the push-backs from opponents asked where the refugees would live when housing markets are pretty tight. 

Bad urban policy that limits supply naturally leads to this kind of view. One more house taken by somebody is one fewer house available for you or your kids when urban policy has made it too hard to build new dwellings to keep up with demand.
And now we have a nice bit of evidence on it by counterexample. Houston gets housing policy right. They allow expansion in the suburbs through use of municipal utility districts in which the subdivisions cover their own infrastructure costs through use of targeted rates that pay off the bonds used to finance things – the policy that Nick Smith reckoned to be some kind of voodoo economics. It just works.

Houston, which admits more refugees than any city in the nation, still supports Syrian refugees, even in light of the hard position carved out by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. “Not allowing refugees makes America look weak,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker told reporters. “It is the only humane thing to do.”

Humane housing policy that maintains housing affordability by allowing both densification and expansion also allows humane refugee policies.

It’s also fun to think about the political economy of the mayor/governor divides across America on refugee policy. My first cut at it is that governors’ median voters are more rural than mayors’, but I doubt that’s all of it..