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Urban Containment, Housing Affordability and Price Stability - Irreconcilable Goals


  • Paul Cheshire


The planning goals of urban containment and now densification conceive of houses in terms of physical units and of land 'supply' as the area allocated for housing by the planning system; estimates of 'demand' are driven by household projections. Prices and price volatility are, however, determined by economic forces and there is a fatal mismatch between the operational concepts of demand and supply in markets and the parallel concepts with which the planning system works. Planning allocates a scarce resource - land - so is fundamentally an economic activity; but its decisions are made independently of price or market information. Moreover the concepts used by the planning systems vary with institutional arrangements and culture. Underlying these fatal clashes is the fact that housing is a complex good with many attributes, each of which is subject to particular supply and demand conditions and that one of the most important attributes of houses is space - both inside and around them. So the more planning systems attempt to densify development or to confine new housing to 'brownfield' land, the more inelastic supply of a vital housing attribute is, the more 'unaffordable' housing becomes and the more volatile housing markets will be. There are solutions - but none of them comfortable for policy makers.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Cheshire, 2009. "Urban Containment, Housing Affordability and Price Stability - Irreconcilable Goals," SERC Policy Papers 004, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sercpp:004

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cheshire, Paul & Sheppard, Stephen, 2002. "The welfare economics of land use planning," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 242-269, September.
    2. Paul C. Cheshire & Christian A.L. Hilber, 2008. "Office Space Supply Restrictions in Britain: The Political Economy of Market Revenge," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(529), pages 185-221, June.
    3. Jan Rouwendal & Willemijn Weijschede- v.d. Straaten, 2008. "The costs and benefits of providing open space in cities," CPB Discussion Paper 98, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    4. Paul Cheshire & Stephen Sheppard, 2004. "Capitalising the Value of Free Schools: The Impact of Supply Characteristics and Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(499), pages 397-424, November.
    5. Paul Cheshire & Stephen Sheppard, 2005. "Introducing Price Signals into Land Use Planning Decision-making - a Proposal," ERSA conference papers ersa05p42, European Regional Science Association.
    6. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
    7. J. Phillips & E. Goodstein, 2000. "Growth management and housing prices: the case of Portland, Oregon," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(3), pages 334-344, July.
    8. Cheshire, P. C. & Sheppard, Stephen Charles, 2005. "The introduction of price signals into land use planning decision-making : a proposal," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 568, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Song, Yan & Knaap, Gerrit-Jan, 2003. "New urbanism and housing values: a disaggregate assessment," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 218-238, September.
    10. Jackson, Jerry R. & Johnson, Ruth C. & Kaserman, David L., 1984. "The measurement of land prices and the elasticity of substitution in housing production," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 1-12, July.
    11. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, 2003. "The impact of building restrictions on housing affordability," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Jun, pages 21-39.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. How Germany Achieved Stable and Affordable Housing
      by Yves Smith in Naked capitalism on 2011-06-23 12:31:28


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    Cited by:

    1. Hilber, Christian A.L. & Schöni, Olivier, 2016. "Housing policies in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States: lessons learned," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 72818, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Nathan, Max & Overman, Henry G., 2011. "What we know (and don't know) about the links between planning and economic performance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 59232, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item


    housing; house prices; planning;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N0 - Economic History - - General


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