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There are 32 houses in Monopoly. That's only enough to cover eight properties with four houses each, or two full (three property) monopolies, plus one two property monopoly, either Boardwalk-Park Place, or Mediterranean-Baltic.

So if I own two full monopolies, and cover them with four houses each, there are only eight houses left, meaning that except for either Boardwalk-Park Place, or Mediterranean-Baltic, no third monopoly can go up to the crtical three house level on all three properties.

Does this mean that I should keep four houses each on my two monopolies and NOT upgrade them to hotels? Or if someone wants houses, maybe I should at least force them to give me another Monopoly (or railroads or cash) in order to agree to free up houses by upgrading to a hotel? (This might come into play if another opponent and I both had four houses each on our respective monopolies.)

(I remember playing years ago with two house rules: 1) if someone could cover all their properties with hotels outright they were allowed to do so without buying houses (if they could afford to do so), and 2) if someone had four houses on a property, you could force them to free up houses by paying for their upgrade to a hotel.)

What I find puzzling is that there are 12 hotels, enough to cover all the properties from four full (three-property) monopolies. And taken together, the hotels and houses can cover six full monopolies, plus a seventh, either Boardwalk-Park Place, or Mediterranean-Baltic, with either a hotel or four houses.

So was it the intent of the game designers that the board be covered this way? Or is a housing shortage just another "monopoly" that creates a further shortage over and above the physical building limits?

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@ColinD: This wasn't a "What are the rules?" question. This was a "what should I do? question. Unless we're talking about house rules, in which case the issue is, "What should the rules be?" –  Tom Au Nov 12 '13 at 21:49
    
my link was simply to a related question. The answer contains information about strategic use of the housing shortage to force opponents to sell hotels outright when no mouse houses are available. –  Colin D Nov 12 '13 at 22:42
    
Note that if demand for houses exceeds supply at a moment in time, they go up for auction according to the standard rules. This makes it advantageous to own the pricier monopoly, as one will get a better return on the inflated acquisition price. Many play in error, allowing the phasing player to pick up houses at their standard price in such situations. This impacts the ability to bargain with house availability. –  Pieter Geerkens Nov 12 '13 at 23:03
    
@PieterGeerkens do you have a rules citation for that? I know different versions/editions of the game vary on this rule. –  Colin D Nov 12 '13 at 23:11
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From the Official Rules of Monopoly (my emphasis):

The bank has a fixed supply of 32 houses and 12 hotels. If more players decide to build more houses at the same time than there are houses in the bank, the houses are auctioned off one at a time to the highest bidder. This rule favors the owners of expensive properties, for which the houses cost more in the first place, because the auction price of a house is not tied to the value of the property on which it will be placed. It is not possible to buy more houses than there is available in the bank. This could stop people buying hotels in the future!

and here:

When the Bank has no houses to sell, players wishing to build must wait for some player to return or sell their houses to the Bank before building. If there are a limited number of houses and hotels available and two or more players wish to buy more than the Bank has, the houses or hotels must be sold at auction to the highest bidder.

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Yes. It's a deliberate choice, and the rules are such that if there are no houses available you cannot upgrade to hotels - so that it is a perfectly valid tactic to buy 3-4 houses for all your properties and thus prevent opponents from getting hotels. In fact, IIRC, 3 or 4 houses is about the point where you get maximum returns relative to money spent for most properties.

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