Marcus: A different take on the housing shortage


I am one of 760,000 Hoosiers who are possible villains in the widely declaimed housing shortage. Of course, as a known reprobate, I do ask: How do we know there is a housing shortage?

That we have homeless people is unquestioned. That we have people who seek more comfortable quarters, but feel they cannot afford the housing they desire, is without doubt.

Also, without question or doubt, is the truth that of the 2.6 million occupied Indiana dwellings are many with an “underutilized” room — a room which could be a bedroom for one or more persons.

We Americans and Hoosiers are wealthy people, where space is a luxury we afford ourselves.

“Gasp! Arlene, look at this! He’s saying we should invite people into our home because you have your work room and I have my study. Is there no end to this grasping socialism disguised as civil responsibility?”

“Now, Arnold! Remember your blood pressure. Hear the man out.”

It has long been popular to consider income inequality as inequity. More recently, the inequality of wealth has been identified as equally inequitable. Now, living space inequality is being nominated as an inequity.

In the nation, 34.8 million housing units (from mansions to mobile homes) have but one occupant. As noted above, in Indiana the figure is 760,000 (2021 Census Data). Of these, 340,000 (44%) are occupied by renters and the balance 420,000 (56%) are owner-occupied dwellings.

“What does this creep want, Arlene? Bunk beds everywhere? Displace the widows?

“Now Arnold … he’s probably one of them that’s seen that Dr. Zhivago movie one too many times.”

In Vigo County (Terre Haute), 7,900 (29% of owner-occupied houses) have but one person. There are another 6,900 rented units with one person. Combined, that’s over one-third of the entire occupied housing stock in the county.

“I tell you, Arlene, it’s all of them over-paid millenaries what live high-on-the-hog in fancy new places.”

“It’s millennials, Arnold, and I don’t know if it’s them or just old, poor folks in old houses they own or rent.”

To match up “roomers” with home owners or renters would be a delicate and difficult task in any community. Many leases might prohibit such arrangements and moralistic neighbors might imagine and condemn such blatant “co-habitation” as living in sin.

Nonetheless, individuals and organizations concerned about the housing mismatch (known as a shortage) might investigate means of providing transitional avenues to a more “equitable” allocation of housing.

Specifically, how can we help the “over-housed” yield some of their material and spiritual memorabilia in order to find other accommodations, yielding precious space to those needing or wanting improved housing solutions.

Can the low-income, space-rich be matched with compatible living partners? This improvement in market flexibility could ease the lives of many and diminish the “housing shortage.”

Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at [email protected] Follow him and John Guy on Who Gets What? wherever podcasts are available or at


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