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The introduction of price signals into land use planning decision-making : a proposal

  • P. C. Cheshire
  • Stephen Charles Sheppard

Although directed to the British system of Town and Country Planning this paper has relevance for many OECD countries, including some with systems of land use regulation which evolved entirely independently of the British. The paper starts by characterising the basic features of the British land use planning system, viewed from the resource allocation point of view of an economist. A conclusion is that the system explicitly excludes any use of price signals from its decisions. The paper then summarises the problems which the exclusion of price information has given rise to. Because the UK planning system has deliberately constrained the supply of space, and space is an attribute of housing which is income elastic in demand, rising incomes not only drive rising real house prices but also mean that land prices have risen considerably faster than house prices. Several housing attributes other than garden space are to a degree substitutes for land but the underlying cause of the inelastic supply of housing in the UK is the constraint on land supply. The final section proposes a mechanism which would make use of the information embodied in the price premiums of neighbouring parcels of land zoned for different uses. Such premiums signal the relative scarcity of land for different uses at each location and should become a ‘material consideration’ in planning decision-making. If they were above some threshold, this should provide a presumption of development unless maintaining the land in its current use could be shown to be in the public interest. If combined with Impact Fees, such a change would not only make housing supply more elastic and the system more transparent but would help to distance land availability decisions from the political process.

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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 568.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Urban Studies, April, 2005, 42(4), pp. 647 -663. ISSN: 1360-063X
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:568
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  1. Titman, Sheridan, 1985. "Urban Land Prices under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 505-14, June.
  2. Sheppard, Stephen, 1988. "The qualitative economics of development control," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 310-330, November.
  3. 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..
  4. Elena G. Irwin, 2002. "The Effects of Open Space on Residential Property Values," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 78(4), pages 465-480.
  5. Capozza, Dennis R. & Helsley, Robert W., 1989. "The fundamentals of land prices and urban growth," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 295-306, November.
  6. P. C. Cheshire & Stephen Charles Sheppard, 2004. "Land markets and land market regulation : progress towards understanding," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 566, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  7. 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.
  8. Mayo, Stephen & Sheppard, Stephen, 2001. "Housing Supply and the Effects of Stochastic Development Control," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 109-128, June.
  9. Gyourko, Joseph & Tracy, Joseph, 1991. "The Structure of Local Public Finance and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 774-806, August.
  10. Elena G. Irwin, 2002. "Interacting agents, spatial externalities and the evolution of residential land use patterns," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(1), pages 31-54, January.
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