In the Zone

You know how I’ve been preaching against zoning laws over the last year? Well, allow me to do so again.

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According to Richard Reeves and Dimitrios Halikias at the Brookings Institution, “the movement of less-skilled workers to higher-growth areas has not risen in recent years, a break with the historical pattern[.]” It seems that regulation is the culprit. “The number of court cases mentioning “land use” (an innovative measure of regulation used in a Hutchins Center working paper by Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag) has risen steadily:”

“The Hutchins paper,” the authors continue, “complements earlier economic analyses, including a study published last year by Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti which estimates that the U.S. economy is 14 percent smaller as a result of constraints on housing development…By using local government powers to zone out lower-income families, upper middle class Americans protect the value of their homes. (Federal policy helps, of course, by regressively supporting richer home owners through mortgage interest deductions.)” Zoning acts as a kind of “opportunity hoarding,” even when it comes to elementary education:

According to Jonathan Rothwell, there is a strong link between zoning and educational disparities. Homes near good elementary schools are more expensive: about two and half times as much as those near the poorer-performing schools. But in metropolitan areas with more restrictive zoning, this gap is even wider. Loosening zoning regulations would reduce the housing cost gap and therefore narrow the school test-score gap by 4 to 7 percentiles, Rothwell finds.

Some of the most effective things are also some of the most mundane.