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States Mandating Housing Deregulation

Housing deregulation for the sake of housing affordability made progress in both Democratic- and Republican-led states last year.
January 21, 2020, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Nick Starichenko

"Last year, Democratic- and Republican-led states and municipalities passed legislation addressing housing affordability, a hopeful sign that housing deregulation is beginning to attract bipartisan support, at least at the state and local level," writes Salim Furth, finding numerous examples that didn't gain similar levels of attention as a few, high-profile examples of the trend.

Furth launches this analysis with information about deregulations efforts in Arkansas and Texas intended to lower the cost of building. "Arkansas has restored autonomy to homeowners on virtually all building-design choices, from color to roof pitch, while Texas has purged local restrictions on building materials," reports Furth. A failed legislative effort in Georgia is held up as an example "that removing regulation is difficult once cities and counties become accustomed to enforcing it."

Other themes summarized by Furth include efforts to ease approval processes, led by North Carolina [pdf] and Texas (California is held up as an example of bureaucratic delay [pdf] increasing the cost of housing). North Carolina is also referenced when discussing state legislation that "prohibits any local zoning requirements that impose a minimum square footage for one- and two-family homes."

Inherent throughout the discussion is the rare position of land and building regulations to drive a wedge between personal property rights and the public interest. Furth also tips off the reader to numerous examples where these competing forces could be negotiated by states in the next year.

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Published on Friday, January 3, 2020 in City Journal
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