Lorraine Woellert and her editors at Politico have it at least partly right in her piece, "Why Washington Can't Fix the New Housing Crisis." By nature Washington is Washington and housing is local.

The inference, though, is that altering, or reversing, or eliminating, or pulverizing a byzantine array of regulations and policy at the community, town, city, county and state level would do it. Undoing local strictures that amount to heavy costs in money and time would the only way to solve the fact that the trickle of housing being developed for the lower tiers of the price spectrum is driving those very prices beyond the pale of more and more household incomes.

Or so Woellert would have audiences believe. She writes:

"The best hope for a policy fix might lie somewhere between the White House and Main Street. States have the authority to curb local power and some, including Massachusetts, have already tried. Massachusetts builders can win zoning flexibility if they build affordable housing units where prices are high, for example. The state also can levy financial penalties against high-cost communities that refuse to greenlight new construction.

Still, the real fix for what ails housing, many believe, is housing itself, the people in it, and the people that want it.

Constrain people in housing, and the more you do the more clever and resourceful and cunning they become, and ultimately they make an opportunity of constraint.

AHV Communities, for example, has gotten down its new single-family for-rent community model in Texas, and is ready now to roll the template out in the hot, relatively benign regulatory environments of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee.

"We look at the delta of the cost of homeownership compared with the existing rental stock in a market, and comp ourselves to Class A-branded new apartments," founder and CEO Mark Wolf said, explaining the new market expansion program. "We've been building a blueprint in our Texas markets, and we feel we've got it."

Take a high-end apartment community today, break it into single detached units, and give it all the community programming and amenities a multifamily, multistory building would have, and you've got an AHV community. No one living above or below, or sharing walls. Wolf is a big believer, not only in the rent-by-necessity demand among people not prepared financially to take on homeownership, but in the rent-by-choice segment that declared itself as growing in the wake of the Great Recession, and has kept doing so ever since.

The model works for consumers--now, just shy of 12% of households, per John Burns Real Estate Consulting data--and Wolf's making it work as a cash-flow, build and hold model he likes over the long haul of real estate's cycles.

Ivy Zelman.
Ivy Zelman.

As a matter of fact, folks at Zelman & Associates believe that while multifamily rental may be losing a bit of lustre thanks to oversupply in some markets, single-family for-rent's momentum seems to be strengthening.

In the most recent June 30, compilation of analysis in The Z Report, a twice-monthly compendium of smart dives into events, developments, forces, and trends that impact the housing business. You can try it out for free by linking here. The Zelman take notes:

Overall, single-family operators continued to experience strong renter demand and pricing power for their rental homes, which has been driven by continued improvement in employment and limited availability of single-family homes for-rent and for-sale. As a reminder, there are approximately 16 million single-family rental homes across the country, representing 19% of all single-family households and 35% of rental households.

Other for-sale builders, including Lennar, are trying single-family for-rent on for size, but it's a company like AHV, a pure-play all-in kind of endeavor who'll be likely to show the model's potential.

What we like about Wolf's AHV approach is that he and co-founder and president Spencer Rinker look at all the constraints both builders and multifamily developers are dealing with and see limitations, impediments, and headwinds for those businesses. But for AHV, they add up to opportunity. And Uncle Sam doesn't need to lift a finger to help. Maybe innovation and enterprise can fix what government can't.