Imagine a city without scarcity. What would your city look like with an abundance of healthy food, clean water, energy, and housing?
Market economies thrive on scarcity. If you could make your own paperclips at home, free of charge, why would you ever need to purchase them? If you had time to do your own oil change, why would you ever pay somebody for this service? If the source code for a program were available without restrictions why would you pay for the license? Scarcity of materials, time, and intellectual property allow businesses to prosper in our economy.
However, there are some situations when scarcity is not in the public interest.
A scarcity of healthy food in a city places a limit on the number of people who can lead healthy lives. When people cannot access fresh foods, they will suffer from poor nutrition and potentially shorter lifespans. A scarcity of clean water harms public health and could be fatal if prolonged. A scarcity of energy could lead to people being unable to operate vehicles, air conditioners, furnaces, and other appliances. For better or worse, our modern city dwellers depend on energy for comfort and sometimes survival. Food, water, and energy are essential to making our cities function – when they run in short supply, the public suffers.
Many city leaders understand these issues – and seek to take steps to protect the abundance of healthy food, clean water, and energy.
But housing is different. Cities across North America have established policies that artificially limit the availability of housing. By and large, these policies are popular and not under threat.
Housing scarcity causes rents to be out-of-reach for working families; it causes people to tolerate housing conditions they wouldn’t normally accept; and it contributes to homelessness. A scarcity of housing slows local businesses expansion due to high costs of living. Scarce housing limits the possibility for people to move to your city in the future. For growing cities a scarcity of housing is not in the public interest.
Abundant housing, energy, water, and food are all possible should we choose to embrace abundance thinking. The resources are available to address shortages in any of these areas.
(This post was inspired by my discovery of Abundant Housing Vancouver – a local advocacy group that advocates for exactly what it says.)