How Land Use Regulations Hurt the Poor

Sandy Ikeda and I have published a new Mercatus paper on the regressive effects of land use regulation. We review the empirical literature on how the effects of rules such as maximum density, parking requirements, urban growth boundaries, and historic preservation affect housing prices. Nearly all of the studies on the price effects of land use regulations find that — as supply and demand analysis would predict — these rules increase the price of housing. While the broad consensus on the price effects of land use regulations is probably to no surprise to Market Urbanism readers, some policy analysts continue to insist that in fact rules requiring detached, single family homes help cities maintain housing affordability.

Ed Glaeser, Joseph Gyourko, and Raven Saks estimate the effects of regulations on house prices in their paper “Why Is Manhattan So Expensive? Regulation and the Rise in Housing Prices.” They estimate what they call the “zoning tax” in 21 cities. The zoning tax indicates the proportion of housing costs that are due to land use regulations. The chart below shows the percentage of housing costs that this “tax” accounts for:

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