by Emily Greene | February 21, 2024

There are a lot of issues facing the nation and the commonwealth, perhaps none more volatile than the housing market. Mortgage costs have reached a 40 year high, with most households now spending roughly 37% of their gross income on mortgage payments. Massive down payments to get already inflated interest rates to a sustainable level have left new homeowners with little to nothing left in their savings. Add to all of that: a housing inventory that is at its lowest point in decades and Americans holding nearly $12.3 trillion dollars in mortgage debt. We need reform, and we need it now. 

Government intervention is what got us into this situation and traditional free market capitalism is our best way out, if for no other benefit than to release some of the pressure on a bubble that is about to explode.

With businesses on main street in dire need of employees and potential employees in need of geographically suitable and affordable housing, local zoning laws need to be addressed here in the Commonwealth. Now, this is not to suggest that government run housing needs to infiltrate every community—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Homeowners should have the right to expand their homes to bring in elderly family members or add mother-in-law suites to their properties without government interference. Buildings that once served as the industrial centers that provided the living for the surrounding communities now sit vacant and can easily be transformed into multi-unit residences to serve much of the same population, if the government gets out of the way.

It’s simple: if there are changes to our zoning laws and natural development or reuse can occur, this will create a natural supply of homes. The basic laws of supply and demand are in play, and unfortunately, due to manipulation of that supply, actions like this are needed.  

As it stands, many of our communities prohibit the expansion of a residence or maintain a prohibition of smaller dwellings on a property. Further, most of our cities, mid-sized townships and smaller boroughs put strict restrictions on what type of homes can be built in a community and often the type of use for said home.

Inaction in the housing policy space is impacting real Pennsylvanians from every part of the commonwealth. For example, meet Paul, an Allegheny County resident. Paul owns 5 acres of land and has a home that his family has outgrown. Naturally, he explored his options in the market and decided to add an addition to his home. Due to the stringent zoning laws in his borough, he fought the zoning board for 6 months over one square yard of his own land of which the corner of his house would sit. Mind you, there are no other homes or properties for roughly an acre in either direction. Nearly $7,000 later in attorney fees, permitting fees, hearings and surveys on top of previously submitted surveys, Paul was able to lay that stack of block on his own property. These kinds of restrictions happen every day to our neighbors. We can put a stop to this.

A reality we must face is there are not enough places to rent, and we do not have enough homes to attempt to purchase, which creates a barrier for Pennsylvanians looking to pursue their white picket fence American Dream. Harrisburg can take swift action—by getting out of the way and allowing the market to drive affordable housing solutions. Make sure your member of the legislature hears your message loud and clear: help individuals and families find housing options at their price point by reforming land use regulations.  

You can scale your voice and act now by heading to This is Emily Greene, Deputy State Director with Americans for Prosperity Pennsylvania.