Edition: Global Global Select Region
Email: Passwd: or sign up free
One News Page
One News Page > US > Low-Density Suburbs Are Not Free-Market Capitalism
Breaking News: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Laureate, Dies at 87
Open news article

Low-Density Suburbs Are Not Free-Market Capitalism

Low Density Suburbs Are Not Free Market Capitalism: One News Page StaffOne News Page Staff
Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Recently in the Wall Street Journal, transportation consultant Wendell Cox published an op-ed extentitled: “California Declares War on Suburbia.” Cox argues that “planners” in California are attacking what he calls “the most popular housing choice,” the single-family detached home, and if they get their way, they will weaken California’s economy, drive up housing prices, and increase traffic congestion.

Actually, the homogenous prevalence of low-density single-family suburban housing is the outcome of the very government “planning” process that Cox decries, as economist Ed Glaeser has noted (see “Triumph of the Cityext”).

Local zoning policies greatly distort housing markets across the country. A recent national survey extof land regulations found that 84 percent of jurisdictions forbid the construction of housing units that are smaller than some standard set by the local zoning authority. The average jurisdiction with zoning power has a minimum lot size requirement of 0.4 acres, which is larger than most single-family homes. As a consequence, thousands of jurisdictions—mostly in the suburbs of big cities—effectively prohibit the construction of inexpensive or moderately dense housing, and many neighborhoods within big cities impose similar restrictions. As I’ve found in previous researchext (using data from a surveyext by Rolf Pendall and my colleague Robert Puentes), metropolitan areas with the most anti-density restrictions tend to see the largest increase in housing prices, controlling for other factors.

While California’s local governments are not as anti-density as their counterparts in the Northeast, its local governments do often rely on various growth managementext techniques that are likely to raise housing prices. In fact, local governments in California are particularly motivated to encourage large-lot-only housing because of the states cap on property tax rates (through Proposition 13). Researchext on urban growth boundaries, which are prevalent in California jurisdictions, finds that housing prices increase significantly faster in places that adopt these regulations.

What opponents of planning might characterize as a war on suburbia and the preferences of the public could just as easily be viewed as a responsible effort by local politicians to respond to high housing prices, automobile congestion, and pollution. Take the Association of Bay Area Governmentsext, which is singled out for criticism by Cox for their effort to coordinate and prioritize the construction of moderately high-density housing near job and transportation hubs. Their goal is to encourage new housing construction to go up near where people work and cluster denser housing developments enough to sustain public transportation. This will tend to reduce congestion and pollution by facilitating walking, public transit, and shorter auto commutes. Of course, if there is a populous revolt against these politics, any of the member governments could refuse to comply, since the Association of Bay Area Governments has no land-use authority, as it clearly states on its websiteext. Moreover, since the association isn’t itself a developer, the construction will only take place if private developers find it profitable.

It’s ironic that the most aggressive defenders of the regulatory enshrinement of the large-lot single-family home claim that any changes to this status-quo are an assault on markets and consumer preferences. In fact, anti-density zoning laws represent the triumph of heavy-handed government over private property rights, as the first major Supreme Court caseext on zoning demonstrated. These laws prevent private home owners from selling their property to the highest bidder and block housing developers from putting up their preferred housing structures--imposing massive costs on the metropolitan area in terms of traffic, pollution, housing costs, economic segregation (and education, as we will show in a forthcoming paper next week).

Cox is right to link land regulations in California to higher housing costs, but he is wrong to defend anti-density zoning and other forms of large-lot suburban protectionism. The proposed changes in the Bay Area take a step in the right direction by allowing higher density in their supply-constrained metropolitan areas. Indeed, more suburban governments should free up housing markets from their long-standing anti-density bias and adopt more market-based approaches to housing.
Share on FacebookShare on Twitter Comment

Recent related news

Open news article

Turns Out The Youngs Don't Like The Suburbs, After All

Turns Out The Youngs Don't Like The Suburbs, After All
A few months ago, the New York Times was breathlessly telling us the suburbs had become hip—did you know there's not one but several yoga studios in Tarrytown?...
Gothamist 2 hours ago - US

Open news article

Sex in the Suburbs: Some people lap dance but they are just prostitutes. Not me and not here.

It stands out like a beacon on West Bromwich High Street making no excuses of what is on offer inside. A bright blue and white sign reads ‘The Bing!’ – a...
Express and Star 7 hours ago - UK

Open news article

People, Investment Continue to Flow to Core Cities Faster Than to Suburbs

  New data confirm that central cities continue to grow faster than their suburbs.  This still relatively new trend reverses a century of just the opposite,...
Huffington Post 1 day ago - Business

Open news article

Low pay is not a necessary evil

Inequality is entrenched in capitalism as French economist Thomas Piketty describes. But who'll buy his global wealth tax? The new superstar French economist...
guardian.co.uk 2 days ago - UK

You Might Like

Other recent news in US

Putin: Avoid Troops in UKRAINE, but Will Use Force if NecessaryObamacare: CALIFORNIA sign-ups exceed 3 million for private health care plans or Medi-Cal
U.S., RUSSIA Reach a Tentative Deal to Calm Tensions Over UkraineFIRE TRUCK rams California eatery; 15 injured
'X-Men' director BRYAN SINGER accused of sexually abusing 15-year-old boy in the 1990s – explosive new lawsuit details a hot-tub romp during drug-fueled party at California mansionTexas Cities Should Learn From Bankrupt, Spendthrift DETROIT
In Russia, Vladimir PUTIN Shares His Thoughts About Invading AlaskaPORTLAND to Dump 38 Million Gallons of Water Tainted by Teen's Urine
TEXAS Parents Angered by Fourth-Graders' Bizarre Adult-Themed HomeworkGOOGLE revenues go up by 19% in the first quarter



comments powered by Disqus

•More original news reports from One News Page
Environmentally friendly: One News Page is hosted on servers powered solely by renewable energy
© 2014 One News Page Ltd. All Rights Reserved.  |  About us  |  Press Room  |  Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Content Accreditation
One News Page - Top Headlines RSS Feed RSS  |  News for my Website  |  Free news search widget  |  Advertise  |  Help  |  Contact us  |  DMCA / Content Removal
How are we doing? Send us your feedback  |  One News Page on Facebook LIKE us on Facebook  One News Page on Twitter FOLLOW us on Twitter  One News Page on Google+ FIND us on Google+

Bullet: One News Page official news app for iPhone Bullet: Our news app for iPhone