Economists and housing experts say the biggest hurdle to overcome as the nation hopes to address housing shortages and soaring prices, is a massive overhaul of existing zoning laws and regulations.

The experts shared their insight while participating in a poll organized by Zillow, the online real estate platform.

Of the 117 housing market experts who took part in Zillow’s Home Price Expectations Survey, 73% said zoning reform was one of the most effective means to address the housing crisis.

Zoning reform was selected as the most effective means of addressing affordability challenges by experts in Zillow’s survey. (Zillow)

Skylar Olsen, Zillow’s chief economist, said the poll results were unsurprising, saying that the solution to soaring prices is straightforward: build more homes.

“Changes through policies like modest densification will give us more ‘at bats’ to create density and help communities stay livable for everyone,” Olsen said in a news release. “Without a huge injection of new homes in the near future, affordability will continue to be a challenge for many — especially for first-time home buyers.”

Zillow says affordability continues to be a problem in the housing market. Its data shows monthly mortgage payments on a home purchased with a 20% down payment is up 46% from last January, and prices are even higher from the pre-COVID days.

The problem can be traced, in part, back to the late 2000s housing crisis known as the “Great Recession,” experts say. During that period of housing tumult, new housing construction slowed to crawl, leaving a “3.79 million–unit gap in home production in 230 metro areas,” according to a study by Up for Growth, a housing advocacy group.

Mike Kingsella is the CEO of Up for Growth. He says restrictive zoning, artificial barriers and NIMBY (not in my backyard) opposition has led to an unprecedented housing shortage.

“Failure to address these issues will create lower economic output and fewer opportunities for everyone,” Kingsella said. “Families and individuals will be forced to pay higher rents, the equity gap will widen, and transportation costs will rise as people are forced to travel greater distances for work and education.”

While the majority of survey respondents pointed at zoning changes as the No. 1 housing crisis solution, government intervention was the second most popular step. Of the housing experts polled, 59% said governments needed to be encouraged to approve and build affordable housing quicker.

Other responses included converting commercial zones for residential use, tax credits for new home construction and relaxing existing design requirements, like how many municipalities require each housing unit to accommodate parking spots.

Zillow says previous homeowner and renter surveys found overwhelming support for increased housing density in existing neighborhoods, and even small reforms like allowing single-family lots to house more than one unit could add millions of new homes to the housing supply.

But if you’re hoping that the overwhelming support of zoning reform by the people who know the housing market best means changes are on the horizon, you shouldn ‘t probably hold your breath.

Terry Loebs, founder of Pulsenomics, the company contracted to conduct the survey for Zillow, said there are no “quick fixes” for the housing crisis in the United States, but said the recommendations made by the panel of experts appear to be the “most effective means to durably improve homeownership affordability and market balance.”

For more information about the survey, click here.