Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Housing Bubble, Mapped

From USA Today (via The Urbanophile.):
Two maps, one from 2000 and the other from 2007, show the share of Americans taking on huge new debt to buy a home increasing dramatically across the country. By 2007, the national average was 9% of all borrowers, a rate higher even than at the peak of the U.S. housing boom in 2006.




I think we all have a pretty good sense by now that the housing market went through a bit of a maniacal phase in the recent past. But it's interesting to note that the distribution of mania was far from geographically uniform: it was a phenomenon of the West more than the East (including the interior West to a greater extent than I'd realized); of Minneapolis more than Chicago, and Chicago more than the rest of the Midwest; of Boston and DC more than Philadelphia. And Texas appears to be entirely blameless in the whole fiasco.

And here's a similar map for England:



It's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, as this map shows housing prices rather than mortgage rates, but it seems that the bubble in England was much more geographically uniform.

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Texas is blameless because they have virtually no zoning laws. When there are no physical barriers to expansion (most of Texas is one big flat plain) and no artificial barriers like zoning laws and land-use restrictions, it's very difficult for housing bubbles to build up. It's rather ironic that a world where we don't have housing bubbles is a world filled with miles and miles of exurbs.

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