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Zoning, TDRs, and the Density of Development

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  • Walls, Margaret

    () (Resources for the Future)

  • McConnell, Virginia

    () (Resources for the Future)

  • Kopits, Elizabeth

Abstract

Many communities on the urban fringe are implementing a range of policies to preserve farmland and open space, cluster residential development, and guide development to areas with existing infrastructure. These efforts are an attempt to control overall growth and the concomitant loss in open space and also to counter a trend toward the so-called large lot development that often takes place in these areas. Planners have argued that policies to manage density are the most important local policy focus for urban areas in the coming years. It is possible that large lot development and sprawl are themselves the result of government policy. Most local governments use zoning to establish minimum acreage requirements for each residential dwelling unit; in ex-urban localities, these limits are often quite high. Developers might build a subdivision with average lot sizes greater than the minimum but they cannot by law go below it. Some researchers have argued, however, that the spatial patterns of development are simply the natural result of household preferences and market forces. In this paper, we address the question of whether zoning limits are the primary cause of lowdensity, sprawling development or whether market forces tend to dictate this outcome. If zoning limits account for low-density development in at least some cases, how would development patterns be different if there had been no such rules? We begin by constructing a simple model of the developer decision about the density of new development. The subdivision is the unit of observation, and developers must weigh both demand and cost considerations in choosing density, in addition to complying with zoning restrictions that vary across parcels. We apply the model using parcel-level data from a region where zoning rules vary but are exogenous to the period under study. Calvert County, Maryland, near Washington, DC, is an historically rural county that has experienced rapid growth in recent years. The county has a transferable development rights (TDRs) program that has led to a great deal of variability in the intensity of development across properties. We are able to not only examine the extent to which zoning has contributed to large lot development but also to determine the economic forces that underlie density decisions. Finally, we are able to forecast how density would have been different in the absence of zoning rules by estimating a Tobit equation that is censored for the observations constrained by zoning.

Suggested Citation

  • Walls, Margaret & McConnell, Virginia & Kopits, Elizabeth, 2005. "Zoning, TDRs, and the Density of Development," Discussion Papers dp-05-32, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-05-32
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    Cited by:

    1. Lewis, David J., 2010. "An economic framework for forecasting land-use and ecosystem change," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 98-116, April.
    2. Magliocca, Nicholas & McConnell, Virginia & Walls, Margaret, 2015. "Exploring sprawl: Results from an economic agent-based model of land and housing markets," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 114-125.
    3. Walls, Margaret, 2012. "Markets for Development Rights: Lessons Learned from Three Decades of a TDR Program," Discussion Papers dp-12-49, Resources For the Future.
    4. Magliocca, Nicholas & McConnell, Virginia & Walls, Margaret & Safirova, Elena, 2012. "Zoning on the urban fringe: Results from a new approach to modeling land and housing markets," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 198-210.
    5. Xuewen Li & Weiwen Zhang & Yi Peng, 2016. "Grain Output and Cultivated Land Preservation: Assessment of the Rewarded Land Conversion Quotas Trading Policy in China’s Zhejiang Province," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(8), pages 1-15, August.
    6. Gottlieb, Paul D. & O’Donnell, Anthony & Rudel, Thomas & O’Neill, Karen & McDermott, Melanie, 2012. "Determinants of local housing growth in a multi-jurisdictional region, along with a test for nonmarket zoning," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 296-309.
    7. Isaac, R. Mark & Kitchens, Carl & Portillo, Javier E., 2016. "Can buyer “mobility” reduce aggregation failures in land-assembly?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 16-30.
    8. Lichtenberg, Erik, 2011. "Open Space and Urban Sprawl: The Effects of Zoning and Forest Conservation Regulations in Maryland," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 40(3), December.
    9. Maria A. Cunha-e-Sa & Sofia F. Franco, 2013. "The Effects of Land-Use Development Policies on Forest Management," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp576, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
    10. Zhang, Wendong & Wrenn, Douglas H. & Irwin, Elena G., 2016. "Spatial Heterogeneity, Accessibility and Zoning: An Empirical Investigation of Leapfrog Development," ISU General Staff Papers 201602290800001589, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    11. Newburn, David & Ferris, Jeffrey, "undated". "The Effect of Downzoning on Spatial Development Patterns," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170446, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    12. Tsekeris, Theodore & Geroliminis, Nikolas, 2013. "City size, network structure and traffic congestion," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-14.
    13. Wrenn, Douglas H. & Sam, Abdoul G. & Irwin, Elena G., 2012. "Searching for the Urban Fringe: Exploring Spatio-Temporal Variations in the Effect of Distance versus Local Interactions on Residential Land Conversion Using a Conditionally-Parametric Discrete-Time D," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 125007, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    14. Lewis, David J. & Provencher, Bill & Butsic, Van, 2009. "The dynamic effects of open-space conservation policies on residential development density," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 239-252, May.
    15. Paul Gottlieb, 2013. "Agricultural preservation, large-lot zoning, and real estate development in New Jersey, USA," ERSA conference papers ersa13p513, European Regional Science Association.
    16. Jay Mittal, 2017. "Valuing Visual Accessibility of Scenic Landscapes in a Single Family Housing Market: A Spatial Hedonic Approach," ERES eres2017_1, European Real Estate Society (ERES).
    17. Banzhaf, H. Spencer & Lavery, Nathan, 2010. "Can the land tax help curb urban sprawl? Evidence from growth patterns in Pennsylvania," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 169-179, March.
    18. Elizabeth Kopits & Virginia McConnell & Margaret Walls, 2008. "Making Markets for Development Rights Work: What Determines Demand?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 84(1), pages 1-16.
    19. Ferris, Jeffrey & Newburn, David, 2013. "Does Zoning Cause Sprawl?," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150252, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    20. Wrenn, Douglas H. & Irwin, Elena G., 2015. "Time is money: An empirical examination of the effects of regulatory delay on residential subdivision development," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 25-36.
    21. Elizabeth C. Delmelle & Yuhong Zhou & Jean-Claude Thill, 2014. "Densification without Growth Management? Evidence from Local Land Development and Housing Trends in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(6), pages 1-16, June.
    22. Van Butsic & David J. Lewis & Lindsay Ludwig, 2011. "An Econometric Analysis of Land Development with Endogenous Zoning," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 87(3), pages 412-432.
    23. Lichtenberg, Erik, 2008. "Open Space and Urban Sprawl: The Case of the Maryland Forest Conservation Act," Working Papers 37812, University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
    24. Sims, Katharine R.E. & Schuetz, Jenny, 2009. "Local regulation and land-use change: The effects of wetlands bylaws in Massachusetts," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 409-421, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    housing density; zoning; transferable development rights;

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • R15 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Econometric and Input-Output Models; Other Methods
    • R52 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Land Use and Other Regulations

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