It is ultimately futile to attempt to overturn the laws of supply and demand. The cost of housing in the District of Columbia is going to continue to rise until it hits a point at which demand levels off. Adding to the supply of as many different kinds of housing as possible, as quickly as possible is good policy. But no amount of rent control or housing subsidies are going to reverse this inexorable tide. Unpleasant to hear, but grounded in reality.

A better approach is to take the typical rent subsidized tenant and help them build their skill set, through improved adult education and job training, so that they can command a job that empowers them to pay market rent.

It might even be sensible policy to take some or most of the money we spend on housing affordability and re-direct it towards more intensive, employer driven job training.

We have searched high and low for solutions to the high cost of housing. We hear politicians and candidates talk about it constantly, but no one has offered a plausible solution based on trying to contain the price of rent or home ownership. This has been a major problem for fifteen years. Some really smart minds have been working on it to no avail. Maybe we haven’t found a solution because there isn’t one, at least in the conventional sense.

As a city, we should take the time to calculate where our scarce resources are best invested. How long would it take to build X amount of “affordable” housing, versus how long would it take to up-skill the percentage of the population that is now dependent on a declining stock of affordable housing? We think the issues are ripe for a rational policy debate. The question is, can we hold one?