Timothy B. Lee -- Writer with Ars Technica and the Cato Institute
The most important policy debates are often the ones no one is having. Some issues--abortion, tax policy, health care--have been debated ad nauseum for decades. The arguments on each side are well-rehearsed, and even people who aren't very politically active often have an opinion about them.
On the other hand, there are policy issues that, until recently, weren't considered "issues" at all. Until the 1980s, for example, only a small minority of gay rights activists thought marriage equality was even an issue worth debating. The rest of the electorate had barely given the topic any thought.
Over the last half-century, we've had a similar situation with housing policy. Some of our most productive cities and their surrounding suburbs have enacted comprehensive systems of zoning that make it almost impossible to increase the housing stock. This has increasingly distorted economic activity--new houses being built in more and more distant "exurbs," populations flowing toward less-productive metro areas like Phoenix and Las Vegas, wealthy New Yorkers being crammed into comically tiny apartments.
But most people don't attribute high rents to policy choices that could have been made differently. Rather, they're viewed as being akin to facts of nature. The nearly order-of-magnitude difference in housing costs between Manhattan and Little Rock, for example, is just seen as a natural consequence of the greater demand for Manhattan real estate.