Constructing Communities: The Effect of Housing Policy on County Populations and Election Outcomes
Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
Virginia is currently confronting a housing affordability crisis. Many municipalities across the state are becoming progressively inaccessible to low-income Virginians. As this crisis continues to escalate, Virginia localities and their communities are beginning to weigh their options to address this problem. Relaxing zoning density policies to allow denser, multi-unit housing construction is one proposed solution to increase municipalities’ housing stock and lower overall housing costs. This paper addresses the following questions. How would the adoption of this strategy affect the population composition of Virginia communities? Could these effects have ramifications for Virginia’s political voting outcomes? Through fixed effects regression analysis, this research finds that the effect of housing densification on increasing income and racial diversity in counties is statistically significant, though substantively weak. Still, housing densification’s role in affecting local political outcomes is amplified through its limited relationship to racial diversity, with increases in multi-unit housing associated with the partial closure of voting share margins between Democratic and Republican candidates in Senate and Presidential elections. However, for this closure in voting margins to be substantial, Virginia counties would have to see significant increases in their multi-unit housing stock, increases that are historically rare or unheard of in Virginia. A closer look at an extreme case of multi-unit housing growth in Falls Church, Virginia provides some insight as to what is perhaps inhibiting the relationship between zoning, housing patterns, and expected demographic composition to manifest: failure to accompany housing densification with active government controls on housing affordability. Falls Church’s unique characteristics and extreme change in housing patterns make generalizing this finding difficult. Further research is necessary to explore more representative Virginia municipalities.
Hernandez Estrada, Ashley, "Constructing Communities: The Effect of Housing Policy on County Populations and Election Outcomes" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1607.