Houses, houses everywhere -- but nary one to buy

What's urban sprawl got to do with the housing shortage?
  • Cities have not just grown in population, but expanded outward.
  • Cities thrive on the coasts of seas and sea-sized lakes, not just because of beaches, but shipping -- the lowest friction, lowest cost to ship anything.
  • A coastal city can expand at only half the pace of an inland one, unless it grows its radius inland twice as fast. River-based cities have it easier but are still limited.
  • Outward expansion has run its course, outrunning diameter and the cost of public or auto transportation.

We all see now the shortage of new construction in good markets. Every observer says that sales are suppressed by nothing to sell. Theories abound: development fees, open space reservations, regulation — and there’s always the cost of land, labor and materials. Consider another: geometry.