IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Is agricultural zoning exclusionary?


  • Gottlieb, Paul D.
  • Rudel, Thomas
  • O'Neill, Karen
  • McDermott, Melanie


In rapidly suburbanizing areas, minimum lot sizes of ten acres or greater are often used to discourage residential development and to maintain agricultural critical mass. Because of significant development pressure in these places, there is a good chance these lot size regulations will bind. Such “down-zoning” often appears alongside the purchase of agricultural and conservation easements that reduce housing development even more. Whatever the benefits of such policies for agriculture and the environment, they raise obvious concerns about housing supply and affordability. The issue of affordability should be analyzed at the regional scale, since we would normally expect some high-income, low density enclaves to exist within any metropolitan area. In addition, the analyst should look beyond median home price to compare the distribution of a region’s available housing stock to the distribution of its income. A primary hypothesized effect of large-lot zoning is that it skews the distribution of available housing upward relative to the distribution of income. The present study will use a unique dataset on the New Jersey Highlands region to help answer the fundamental question posed by its title. This dataset includes historical data on the lot size minima imposed on every residential acre in the 83 Highlands municipalities, as well as real estate listing data on thousands of residential transactions in these 83 municipalities. Data from the U.S. Census are used to examine the distribution of income among New Jersey residents who ought to be served by the housing stock in the Highlands. The study finds that in the 1990s and 2000s, the stock of Highlands housing was skewed high relative to the metropolitan incomes available to purchase it, even with renters excluded from the analysis. Using a simple threshold of three times household income, the bottom 30% of households were consistently able to afford fewer than 30% of the homes coming on the market, while the top earners could afford a disproportionately large share of the available housing. At the same time, the study was unable to document a deterioration in Highlands housing affordability in the 1990s and 2000s that was attributable to anything other than the national housing bubble. Down-zoning is likely to affect the mix of housing types on the margin, while the majority of real estate transactions involve homes that were built several decades ago. This suggests either a separate analysis of new construction, or a longer time series on home types and prices that would capture the effects of restrictive zoning over several decades.

Suggested Citation

  • Gottlieb, Paul D. & Rudel, Thomas & O'Neill, Karen & McDermott, Melanie, 2011. "Is agricultural zoning exclusionary?," 2011 Annual Meeting, July 24-26, 2011, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 103562, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea11:103562

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Quigley, John M. & Rosenthal, Larry A., 2005. "The Effects of Land-Use Regulation on the Price of Housing: What Do We Know? What Can We Learn?," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt90m9g90w, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
    2. Gan, Quan & Hill, Robert J., 2009. "Measuring housing affordability: Looking beyond the median," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 115-125, June.
    3. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko & Raven E. Saks, 2005. "Why Have Housing Prices Gone Up?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 329-333, May.
    4. Carliner, Geoffrey, 1973. "Income Elasticity of Housing Demand," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(4), pages 528-532, November.
    5. Hansen, Julia L. & Formby, John P. & Smith, W. James, 1998. "Estimating the Income Elasticity of Demand for Housing: A Comparison of Traditional and Lorenz-Concentration Curve Methodologies," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 328-342, December.
    6. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, "undated". "The Impact of Zoning on Housing Affordability," Zell/Lurie Center Working Papers 395, Wharton School Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Land use; zoning; housing; equity; Community/Rural/Urban Development; Consumer/Household Economics; Land Economics/Use;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:aaea11:103562. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.