Every region must accommodate a broad cross section of the country’s people
More housing supply is needed to bring down prices, but this is often opposed by local residents motivated by the same resistance to change with which you seem to sympathize. Should we tell the NIMBYs to "just move" if they don't like new housing?
Oh this is crazy. YOU DO RENOVATIONS....That's your "thing". For 99% of the population, that is not the case. One of the biggest issues I see is with people desperate to get out of the overpriced rental market biting off more then they can chew. Most people don't even have the knowledge base to find the contractors they need that won't take them to the cleaners.
It is wildly unrealistic to expect everyone to be able to do what YOU THINK they should be able to do because it's something YOU HAPPEN TO DO.
For example, I was a molecular biologist for many years. I had almost a decade of post-graduate education to get there. What if I suddenly said everyone should be able to do what I did? You would rightly think that I was crazy. It takes a lot of time and skill to do what I did. The same is true for renovation. Like molecular biology, home renovation is a complex. They are not error-friendly fields. Anyone not knowing what they are doing could blow up a lab. Anyone not knowing what they are doing could cause cause tremendous damage to a house, like start a fire. In neither case can you can't just pick up a book and learn it. With a home renovation you have the added burden of living in a construction zone for months on end. At least I could get away from the lab when I went home!
You also have to recognize that most people who are married with kids are spread very thing. Many families need 2 adults working well over 40 hours a week each to make ends meet. And many employers demand unpaid overtime as well. Then they have to take care of their kids and many also have parents to care for as well.
There are a few people this can work for. A VERY FEW.
While housing costs have gone up, no doubt, I think that an unexamined problem is the expectations people have. I remember listening to some very well-paid federal employees (think salaries of $170K) grousing about how the only housing they could afford was a 90 minute commute to their downtown offices, and as this was in the context of remote work (pre-lockdowns) , they thought that their long commutes justified not going into the office. But when you pressed them further, the reason they had such long commutes was not just in order to get to a better school district but also because they wanted a lot of space. A lot. They required at least four bedrooms (an extra so they could use it as an office for their work from home), plus they felt they wanted lots of outdoor space for the kids, pets, etc. There were plenty of more affordable homes closer to work, but not ones as large as what they felt entitled to. If they had more realistic expectations about how much space they really needed, they could live a lot closer to their work location and save many hours a week on commuting. Think of it as sort of a corollary to "drive until you qualify".
Here's another issue related to the expense of buying a house -- one my son and his wife encountered in Vancouver, Washington (Greater Portland). The cost of homes in that area has shot through the roof, and because it's such a desirable place to live, lots of people are moving there.
There's no shortage of apartments -- they're getting thrown up everywhere, in large numbers. But because the cost of houses is so high (as in, my son and his wife paid $480K for a small mid-20th century ranch house with 3BR, 1.5 baths, and very small rooms), most of the people with kids my grandson's age are living in apartments.
There are lots of affordable places within a 200 mile radius of where I live. But as you said, there's a reason why people are moving away from these places. You're tied to your car, there are limited resources (including health care), and the commute to a decent job is likely many miles away. The housing shortage in desirable communities (not all of them in the largest urban centers) is very, very real.
”Fixer-upper full of hidden and deferred maintenance? It’s just not reasonable to expect an ordinary couple to take on that workload in order to have a roof over their heads.” Why not? This is not clearly argued against in your article. Why not deem it reasonable? You put a couple of years, savings and hard work into an older house. I find that very reasonable.