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The Impact of Zoning on Housing Affordability

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Joseph Gyourko

Abstract

This paper examines whether there is a housing affordability problem in America by comparing house prices to the costs of new construction. It then proceeds to investigate why prices far exceed construction costs in certain areas. In most of the country, home prices appear to be fairly close to the physical costs of construction. Only in particular areas, especially New York City and California, do housing prices diverge substantially from the costs of new construction. The bulk of the evidence examined indicates that zoning and other land use controls are responsible for prices in high cost areas of the country. This indicates that restrictions on supply and new development, not just high demand for certain regions, are responsible for the housing affordability problems that do exist. The results also suggest that if housing affordability advocates are interested in reducing housing costs, they would do well to start with zoning reform, and not focus as much on public or subsidized construction programs.

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Paper provided by Wharton School Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania in its series Zell/Lurie Center Working Papers with number 395.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:pennzl:395

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  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, 2001. "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1931, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Fischel, William A, 1992. "Property Taxation and the Tiebout Model: Evidence for the Benefit View from Zoning and Voting," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 171-77, March.
  3. Gyourko, Joseph & Tracy, Joseph, 1991. "The Structure of Local Public Finance and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 774-806, August.
  4. Goodman, John Jr. & Ittner, John B., 1992. "The accuracy of home owners' estimates of house value," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 339-357, December.
  5. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
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