On Monday evening Politically scored a major scoop: A leaked document suggested the US Supreme Court had ruled Roe v. Wade to strike down the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The leaked document isn’t a final draft of the court’s decision, but it offers insights into which judges fall on which side of the debate. And it seemed to confirm months of observer predictions that Roe v. Wade is likely to fall in 2022.
This case will have major implications for healthcare, politics and the legal industry. But it can also transform something else: living. In other words, 49 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains as controversial as ever, and a sea change in policy could impact where Americans choose to live and work. Exactly how that plays out remains to be seen, but here’s what real estate professionals need to know about a major legal case that could turn the housing market upside down.
Will abortion become illegal?
The short answer here is a qualified no. The case the Supreme Court is currently considering involves a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. But even if the court uses this case to try Roe v. Tipping Wade won’t result in a sudden, universal abortion ban. Instead, the issue is referred back to states — meaning different states can decide whether or not abortion should be legal and what restrictions they want to place on the practice.
In liberal states like California and New York, according to Roe v. Wade not change much. Such states already have laws on the books allowing abortion, and their respective legislatures have previously made themselves known as pro-choice. California and New York could amend their state constitutions to further enshrine abortion rights, reports Tuesday also suggested.
An interactive map from the Center for Reproductive Rights shows that in a post-Roe world, abortion will remain legal in other states like Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Illinois, Florida, Colorado and more.
On the other end of the spectrum, 13 states have so-called “trigger laws” aimed at making abortion illegal as soon as it becomes possible — or in other words, if or when Roe v. Wade is lifted. States in this category include Utah, Texas, Idaho, Oklahoma, and others. In practice, as many as 26 states could ultimately move to ban abortion in a post-Roe setting, an NBC News analysis on Tuesday further suggested.
But the point here is that according to Roe v. Wade will likely have a patchwork of abortion laws.
How will this affect housing?
“Hypothetically, we could see households defying the court’s decision considering moving out of conservative states” to more liberal states where abortion remains legal, Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, told Inman on Tuesday.
It’s too early to tell how big such a shift could be or if it will have a major impact on housing, but it’s conceivable that people may want to move to a region that better suits their political leanings.
A useful analogue here could be tax policy. Different states have very different approaches to taxes on income, wealth, sales, and other things. As a result, Americans often choose to live in a state where, for example, there is no income tax or where property taxes are comparatively low.
Taxes are more of a financial than an ideological issue for many people (though not all), but the point is that a patchwork of government policies is affecting the flow of real estate consumers across state lines.
Toby Mathis — a tax attorney, real estate investor, and author — made a similar point, telling Inman on Tuesday that conservative states with abortion bans “might leave some people behind.”
However, this process will not play out equally across the socio-economic spectrum. Gardner noted that a post-Roe patchwork of policies would hit lower-income households harder than higher-income households, the latter of which could more easily travel across state lines to obtain an abortion. Higher-income families also tend to own their own homes — a fact that suggests the fall of Roe v. Wade won’t immediately trigger a flood of politically-minded homebuyers moving to new states.
On the other hand, Mathis argued that “when you are in a state that has [abortion] Restrictions, there is clearly a financial burden.” In other words, states that require mothers, especially lower-income mothers, to carry the child to term will “more likely have to support that person with public support.”
“It’s going to be a burden to take care of these people,” he added.
Housing costs can also be a factor; Not every Liberal Texan will be able to afford to move to California, for example, and that will affect the types of consumers who move and the types of homes they want to buy.
All of this is to say that there are basically two big ideas to keep in mind. The first is that ideology and politics can influence the decisions of some real estate consumers. And second, the economy will determine who has the ability to move and how states manage their post-Roe finances.
What about the labor market?
The other big question is what will happen to the labor market. In recent years, cities like Austin and Salt Lake have expanded their tech hubs in part by luring businesses and workers away from their shores. But after Roe v. Wade may not be as enthusiastic about operating in conservative-minded Texas.
“I could see that becoming part of the equation,” Mathis said.
A version of this has already begun to play out. When Texas enacted a controversial abortion ban last year, Texas-based companies like Tesla faced calls to speak out on the issue.
The tech sector has largely sat out this particular fight, although in Florida consumer and worker pressure managed to push Disney into the fight over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” gender and sex education bill. The episode illustrated the intersection of big business and hot politics, and it’s easy to imagine something similar happening to other companies based on their respective states’ abortion policies.
And all of this feeds into the housing market, of course, as property prices have skyrocketed in major business and tech hubs in recent years. The end of Roe v. So Wade could end up optimizing these housing markets.
“Markets like Austin, Texas — where its policy stance has shifted to the left in light of significant growth in the technology sector — may well lead employees (and even entire companies) to consider relocating to more liberal states,” Gardner concluded, “but it it’s too early to tell at the moment.”
Email to Jim Dalrymple II