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Is the Rent Too High? Aggregate Implications of Local Land-Use Regulation
Highly productive U.S. cities are characterized by high housing prices, low housing stock growth, and restrictive land-use regulations (e.g., San Francisco). While new residents would benefit from housing stock growth in cities with highly productive firms, existing residents justify strict local land-use regulations on the grounds of congestion and other costs of further development. This paper assesses the welfare implications of these local regulations for income, congestion, and urban sprawl within a general-equilibrium model with endogenous regulation. In the model, households choose from locations that vary exogenously by productivity and endogenously according to local externalities of congestion and sharing. Existing residents address these externalities by voting for regulations that limit local housing density. In equilibrium, these regulations bind and house prices compensate for differences across locations. Relative to the planner's optimum, the decentralized model generates spatial misallocation whereby high-productivity locations are settled at too-low densities. The model admits a straightforward calibration based on observed population density, expenditure shares on consumption and local services, and local incomes. Welfare and output would be 1.4% and 2.1% higher, respectively, under the planner?s allocation. Abolishing zoning regulations entirely would increase GDP by 6%, but lower welfare by 5.9% because of greater congestion.
AUTHORS: Bunten, Devin
Housing affordability: recommendations for new research to guide policy
This article highlights areas where economic research is needed to guide federal policymakers addressing the challenge of improving housing affordability. The author places these research recommendations in the framework of five key issues, reflecting policymakers? need to identify a rationale for government action; to employ a single, clear measure to gauge affordability; to understand the unintended consequences of current housing policies; to ensure that the political environment is considered when developing policy; and to decide whether to use housing finance reform as a means of achieving housing affordability. New research in these areas would reduce uncertainty in policy design choices, strengthen the evidence base on effective policy interventions, help policymakers evaluate risks, and make salient the trade-offs between different policy objectives.
AUTHORS: Dokko, Jane K.
Capitalization as a Two-Part Tariff: The Role of Zoning
This paper shows that the capitalization of local amenities is effectively priced into land via a two-part pricing formula: a ticket" price paid regardless of the amount of housing service consumed and a slope" price paid per unit of services. We first show theoretically how tickets arise as an extensi ve margin price when there are binding constraints on the number of households admitted to a neighborhood. We use a large national dataset of housing transactions, property characte ristics, and neighbor- hood attributes to measure the extent to which local amenities are capitalized in ticket prices vis-a-vis slopes. We find that in most U.S. cities, the majori ty of neighborhood variation in pricing occurs via tickets, although the importance of tickets rises sharply in the stringency of land development regulations, as predicted by theor y. We discuss implications of two-part pricing for efficiency and equity in neighborhood sorting equilibria and for empirical estimates of willingness to pay for non-marketed amenit ies, which generally assume proportional pricing only.
AUTHORS: Banzhaf, H. Spencer; Mangum, Kyle
Land-Use Regulations, Property Values, and Rents: Decomposing the Effects of the California Coastal Act
REVISED MARCH 2018 Land-use regulations can lower real estate prices by imposing costs on property owners, but may raise prices by restricting supply and generating amenities. We study the effects of the California Coastal Act, one of the nation?s most stringent land-use regulations, on prices and rents for multifamily housing units. The Coastal Act applies to a narrow section of the California coast, allowing us to compare properties on either side of the jurisdictional boundary. The Coastal Act offers several advantages for measuring the effects of land-use regulations, including plausible exogeneity of the boundary location, which we confirm using historical data on boundary placement, and orthogonality of the boundary to other jurisdictional divisions. Extending previous studies, we decompose the effects of the regulation into a local effect, the net price effect of restrictions on the subject property and its immediate neighbors, and an external effect, the value of amenities generated by restrictions on all properties within the regulated area. Data on multifamily housing rents are used to isolate the effect of restrictions on adjacent properties (the neighbor effect). Our analysis of multifamily housing prices reveals local and external effects of approximately +8% and +5%, respectively. The rent analysis indicates a zero neighbor effect, which suggests that the local benefits of the Coastal Act have not yet materialized but are expected to in the future. This interpretation of our results is supported by additional evidence on building ages and assessed building and land values.
AUTHORS: Severen, Christopher; Plantinga, Andrew
Foreclosure Externalities and Vacant Property Registration Ordinances
This paper tests the effectiveness of vacant property registration ordinances (VPROs) in reducing negative externalities from foreclosures. VPROs were widely adopted by local governments across the United States during the foreclosure crisis and facilitated the monitoring and enforcement of existing property maintenance laws. We implement a border discontinuity design combined with a triple-difference specification to overcome policy endogeneity concerns, and we find that the enactment of VPROs in Florida more than halved the negative externality from foreclosure. This finding is robust to a rich set of time-by-location fixed effects, limiting the sample to properties within 0.1 miles of a VPRO/non-VPRO border and to a number of other sample restrictions and falsification exercises. The results suggest that an important driver of the negative price effect of nearby foreclosures is a non-pecuniary externality where the failure to maintain or secure a property affects one's neighbors.
AUTHORS: Sexton, Daniel; Cunningham, Chris; Gerardi, Kristopher S.; Biswas, Arnab