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A Path to Looser Land Use Regulations

Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser discusses the research on local land use controls, and why it makes sense to reevaluate them. Successful approaches may start at the state level.
May 2, 2017, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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In a piece at Brookings, Edward Glaeser writes, "Reforming local land use controls is one of those rare areas in which the libertarian and the progressive agree. The current system restricts the freedom of the property owner, and also makes life harder for poorer Americans."

Historically, lighter regulations let successful parts of America build lots of new housing, encouraging people to participate in booming economies. Today, places like San Francisco limit new housing, driving up construction and arguably stifling the economy. 

This may affect the nation's GDP to a surprising degree. "Land use controls that limit the growth of such successful cities mean that Americans increasingly live in places that make it easy to build, not in places with higher levels of productivity."

Glaeser suggests that while local regulations might seem intractable, states have some power to shift them. Cost-benefit analyses on the regional level could convince state leaders to either override some controls, or pay subsidies (and levy penalties) based on how much construction communities allow.

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Published on Monday, April 24, 2017 in Brookings
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