More Zoning = Less Housing

Not exactly a big surprise, but it’s nice to have corroboration in the form of a comprehensive, statistically rigorous study. The paper, “Land Use Regulations and Housing Development,” by Brendan Shanks, ought to be required reading for everyone involved in land use planning and zoning. Here’s the Abstract:

Land use regulations come in a wide variety of forms and govern how development occurs. They restrict housing development resulting in housing supply being less responsive to demand shocks. Yet little is known on what facets of residential development are most impacted, hindered by lack of comprehensive data on land use regulation stringency. I address this shortcoming by compiling a novel measure of land use regulation based on applying natural language processing techniques to over 40,000 pages of zoning bylaw texts. Utilizing a spatial regression discontinuity design around municipal borders, I find that stringent land use regulations reduce housing supply primarily through increasing the land usage per house. Strongly regulated localities do not compensate by developing more land overall. These results highlight how regulations like minimum lot sizes and setback requirements pose barriers to housing development in high-growth regions.

If you truly care about the availability of affordable housing, you should oppose zoning and other restrictive land-use regulations.

Jon Guze / Senior Fellow, Legal Studies

Jon Guze is the Director of Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, Jon practiced law in Durham, North Carolina for over twent...