I’ve got neighbors. One works in a restaurant and unwinds between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. talking with his friends, including one very animated woman who recently moved here from New Jersey.

I know this because when it’s warm, he hangs out on a back deck that’s just a few feet from my bedroom window.

I could get up and yell at him, but then I’d never get back to sleep. I could go pound on his door when my alarm goes off, but that seems kind of petty. So I put on some music to muffle the voices and look forward to the cold weather.

I’ve got another neighbor who rents an apartment through a vacation rental website. Apparently, the word is out about this place among people planning bachelorette parties, so we see a few of them cycle through during wedding season.

I know I’m supposed to be upset about Airbnb, but my neighbor is a working, single mom, and the short-term rentals help her make ends meet.

It could be worse. I’m just thankful that they aren’t bachelor parties.

Living so close to others is what you get in a neighborhood like mine, one where you can walk around the corner for bread and milk, or meet a friend for coffee. I can visit a park, go to the movies, browse in a bookstore without ever getting in my car.

Density can be annoying, but I think it’s worth it, and apparently, I’m not the only one who does. Most people say they would like to live in a walkable neighborhood, even though the zoning codes in the vast majority of communities favor cars over feet.

The supply of housing in neighborhoods like mine, which was laid out before zoning existed, can’t keep up with demand. That drives prices up, which ultimately drives people away.

That’s the affordable-housing crisis. The question is what to do about it?

When there’s a shortage of anything, the answer is usually to make more of it. But that doesn’t seem to work with housing.

New construction doesn’t necessarily make space for colleagues of my restaurant-worker neighbor or more options for single moms. It tends to produce a few high-end condominiums, in part because there’s a market for that, and also because it’s expensive to comply with zoning rules, especially when off-street parking is required.

When you add $60,000 to $100,000 to the cost of a two-bedroom apartment just so you can have a couple of parking spaces, you are pushing the price of a new unit out of the range of most mortals.

And it matters where you build, not just what you build. It’s not so easy to make new walkable neighborhoods in places that were built for the needs of cars instead of people. Sidewalks, bus routes and other key pieces of infrastructure are expensive to replicate in places where they don’t already exist. When existing walkable neighborhoods become unaffordable to people who work in restaurants, offices or retail, they will move to places you need a car to reach. And where are they going to store that car when they come into town to work?

The best way for my city to become more affordable is to relax the rules that are making the prices go up, and the biggest impediment to that will be people like me: homeowners who like things the way they are and benefit when property values climb.

We are the kind of people who talk about the need to protect “neighborhood character” and defend rules that make new housing too expensive for the people who need it. We are the ones who say things like, “I’m not anti-development, but …” when we protest any change.

We are the last people to support changes that would allow “in-law” apartments or eliminate parking requirements, thus bringing more people into the neighborhood.

Many of us moved here before the competition for space was so intense, and we think that’s the way things are supposed to be.

But nobody should listen to us.

We need more housing that’s built for the way people live today and built to be affordable to people who earn prevailing wages. A lot of it needs to be in places where it’s already possible to get around without a car, and it probably won’t look like the housing that was built 100 years ago.

We might not always like it, but we need more neighbors.


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