“Zoning, Land-Use Planning, and Housing Affordability”

New Cato Policy Analysis by Vanessa Brown Calder, here is the executive summary:

Local zoning and land-use regulations have increased substantially over the decades. These constraints on land development within cities and suburbs aim to achieve various safety, environmental, and aesthetic goals. But the regulations have also tended to reduce the supply of housing, including multifamily and low-income housing. With reduced supply, many U.S. cities suffer from housing affordability problems.

This study uses regression analysis to examine the link between housing prices and zoning and land-use controls. State and local governments across the country impose substantially different amounts of regulation on land development. The study uses a data set of court decisions on land use and zoning that captures the growth in regulation over time and the large variability between the states. The statistical results show that rising land-use regulation is associated with rising real average home prices in 44 states and that rising zoning regulation is associated with rising real average home prices in 36 states. In general, the states that have increased the amount of rules and restrictions on land use the most have higher housing prices.

The federal government spent almost $200 billion to subsidize renting and buying homes in 2015. These subsidies treat a symptom of the underlying problem. But the results of this study indicate that state and local governments can tackle housing affordability problems directly by overhauling their development rules. For example, housing is much more expensive in the Northeast than in the Southeast, and that difference is partly explained by more regulation in the former region. Interestingly, the data show that relatively more federal housing aid flows to states with more restrictive zoning and land-use rules, perhaps because those states have higher housing costs. Federal aid thus creates a disincentive for the states to solve their own housing affordability problems by reducing regulation.

Related: finding common ground between Cato and the Urban Institute on land use regulation [Vanessa Brown Calder and Rolf Pendall; Calder; James Rogers] “California Tries To Fix Housing Affordability Crisis By Making Housing More Expensive” [Christian Britschgi, Reason]


  • Seattle shoots self in foot in regards to affordable housing.



    Note especially the 2nd article on why there is so little affordable, market based housing available in Seattle.

    It’s the same thinking into why there are so few entry level jobs (cough, cough….when you raise the cost, you get less of something, seems to be a difficult concept for my “betters” in Seattle to comprehend. In the case of smaller, therefore less expensive, apartments, they’re raising the minimum size and surprise to no one except Seattle and similarly minded elites, the cost goes up).

    But hey, at least some get it, when it comes to the idiocy of cities like Seattle. Amazon is moving out. I hope they pick some place like Missoula or Sioux City.

    • ” I hope they pick some place like Missoula or Sioux City.

      I vote for Gary, Indiana from whom Amazon solicited a bid and were told to go pound sand.

      • One of the Federalist things I’d like to see the idiots in Congress do is this:

        As an expression of the power to regulate interstate commerce, I would like to see Congress prohibit all States, Counties, Cities and other local districts with taxing or regulatory authority from providing any benefit, tax break, regulatory break or other favor not available to all equally situated within said district so as to prevent distortion of commerce in favor of those receiving the benefit.

        Property tax favors for a stadium to win a sports team? Nope, unless everyone gets the same property tax break.
        Expedited building permits for a new HQ? Nope, unless the Bob and Susie Construction Company putting up a strip mall or small office park also get it.

        Perish the thought that Big Corp gets breaks that Mom-n-Pop business or Joe and Jane citizen doesn’t.