Why Your House Costs So Much…

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…if you're lucky enough to live in a progressive area with "inclusionary zoning" ordinances.

These laws, ostensibly designed to create low- and moderate-cost housing, actually limit the overall supply and thus drive up home costs, says a new study by San Jose State economists Benjamin Powell and Edward Stringham. From an account in the San Jose Mercury-News (reg. required):

In 45 cities for which data was available, they said, production of new housing units fell an average 31 percent the year following the adoption of the inclusionary zoning policy.

And by restricting the supply of new homes, the report said, inclusionary zoning laws have resulted in new-home prices that are $22,000 to $44,000 higher than they would be without such laws.

Powell and Stringham said that when some units in a development are sold or rented for less than the market rate, developers compensate for their lost profits primarily by increasing the cost of the market-rate units, making home ownership or rentals more expensive to the consumer.

"Ultimately our findings are very consistent with what the laws of economics predict," Powell said. "Inclusionary zoning acts essentially as a tax on developers. A tax increases price, and reduces quantity; that's Economics 101."

The full study–which was done for the Reason Public Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank funded by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that also publishes Reason magazine and Reason Online–is online here.

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  1. Joe,

    “Allow the builder to make up for the lower profitability of the affordable units by permitting more market-rate units than would normally be allowed.”

    If it’s okay to build more units than would “normally” be allowed, why is there normally a limit on what’s allowed? Highway speculated that it was to appease environmentalists and you claim that’s not so, but there must be some supposed reason for the limit, and if it’s a minor enough one that it can be tossed aside so easily, why not just lift it entirely and watch the whole market shift down in price for everyone, not just for those lucky enough to get into the artificially created affordable housing? Sooner or later that Amherst plan is going to suffer from stupidity or abuse from all the bureaucrats that’ll have to plug all the holes in the dike created by other aspects of the plan, and you’ll say, “Oh, but that’s not the way the bureaucrats are supposed to handle it!” 🙂

    And as far as Reason’s lack of Joe-approved editorial policy, look at it this way: they’ve never written in favor of your hated snob zoning, have they? I think it’s a safe bet they’re against it, maybe they just can’t cover every single issue they may potentially have a stand on, and maybe they don’t think it’s as significant as you do, or maybe they haven’t seen any stories that relate to it. Have you forwarded them any?

  2. I’d be in favor of scrapping snob zoning laws, fyodor. Hell yeah. Or at least cranking them down, in order to decrease the affordability crisis they’re causing.

    But this isn’t just a matter of the magazine’s editorial stance. Snob zoning is THE biggest distorter of the housing market out there, and the least justified. As I understand it, attacking laws that limit property rights and distort markets is perfectly in line with Reason’s editorial policy. If Reason published an average of one terrorism-related story a week since 9/11, but never mentioned Al Qaeda, and limited its stories to reports of terrorism committed by Hindus against Muslims, wouldn’t you suspect something was up?

    “If it’s okay to build more units than would “normally” be allowed, why is there normally a limit on what’s allowed?” Because of a long tradition of bourgeois snobbery against people who aren’t lucky enough to afford a mortgage. One early SCOTUS case justifies single family zoning on the basis that you need to “keep the pig out of the parlour.” No kidding.

    Why don’t I forward them stories? Not a bad idea, though they don’t seem to have trouble finding planning-related stories on their own. I’m fairly certain the reporters, rppi researchers, and editorial staff are familiar with this issue without my needing to shine the light on it. This is not an obscure issue, but is at the heart of two topics – zoning’s interference with housing affordability and property rights – near and dear to Reason’s heart.

  3. Joe-
    I think Fyodor hinted at the reason Reason has not mentioned this–where can you find stories about it? You won’t see a newspaper story wherein I complain that I can’t put a trailer on my newly-acquired real estate, because I already know better than to buy real estate in hopes of settling a trailer there.

    I’m still pissed off about it, though.

  4. Joe-
    I just thought of someting. Remember the old Monkey Trials in Tennessee? The teacher voluntarily chose to make himself a test case, deliberately teaching evolution to flout the law, in order to force it into court. If I knew the right people (the anti-zoning equivalent of the ACLU) I would actually be willing to gamble my life’s savings to make myself a test case–buy a piece of zoned land (not in the middle of a subdivision, but in the woods or on some fields) put up a trailer and wait for the city to arrest me, provided I had the backing of a group willing to foot the legal fees. You know of anyone?

  5. joe,

    your snob zoning law argument has one flaw – it is not forcing others to bear the costs. If a builder can build ONLY 2 homes on 1 acre, he call sell 2 homes at whatever market price.

    the case in question is when regulation adds to cost, but forces the cost to someone else …

  6. Joe,

    Since you’re the only one I know claiming that snob zoning rates Al-Qaeda like attention, no it’s not clear to me that “something is up,” at least not what you’re implying.

    As far as the limit on the number of units being part of a tradition of bourgeois snobbery, I take that to mean that this limit on development is part of the snob zoning you hate? Which means you’d agree with me that the even better solution is to just scrap the limits altogether?

    But y’know, I don’t know about housing restrictions anywhere else, but in nearby Boulder, Colorado, there is a growth limit in effect for the overall town which has nothing to do with zoning, and which I guarantee you is supported by people who by every commonly understood definition of the word are environmentalists. Here’s an amusing anecdote, I was once at this hippy party up in the mountains west of Boulder, and someone asked what would we wish for, and someone else answered, “A way to limit sprawl growth without raising housing prices!”

  7. Fyodor-
    In Joe’s defense: Al-Qaeda is not preventing me from buying a home, whereas zoning laws are. Of course, zoning laws will get less coverage in the media because,let’s face it, a story about zone restrictions is boring compared to a story about things that go “boom.”

    Also, anyone who supports Al-Qaeda is pretty much evil, whereas a lot of zoning supporters are also nice people who are truly horrified by social problems like homelessness, and don’t want to hear that they themselves are part of the problem.

    Personally, I support keeping certain zoning laws in regards to business and industry, but scrapping residence zoning laws altogether. I once read a self-righteous story in the New York times about people living in apartments in basements, which were often illegal (more than half the apartment is required by law to be above ground). Living in a stuffy basement is a damn sight better than being homeless, and anyone who thinks he’s doing good in trying to reduce the number of available affordable apartments on Manhattan Island has some serious fucking problems.

  8. Fyodor,
    I think Loudon County, VA is trying to encourage both “sprawl” and high housing prices. They want to limit housing in some parts of the county to 3 acre lots and other parts of the county to 50 acre lots. They are also trying to prohibit building on lots with a grade at any point exceeding a certain amount. So, if you want to have a single family home in Loudon Co., you have to move farther and farther out AND have the ability to afford a large lot.

    It appears that virtually every local government in the DC area is trying to make it impossible for people of ordinary means to live within their jurisdictions. It is obvious that much of the multi-family development that is allowed is aimed at affluent older people and single people. That way, they can get new taxes and avoid building new schools. No one wants the people who mow those expensive lawns or clean those McMansions living in their neigborhood, but they still want someone else to do the grunt work.

  9. Jennifer-

    You might want to look into the Institute for Justice. They tend to handle property rights cases, acting like a more libertarian/conservative version of the ACLU.

    However, I don’t know if they sign off on test cases in advance. Still wouldn’t hurt to contact them and tell them what you’re contemplating.

  10. Jennifer,

    During my lunchtime walk (during which I spotted a beaver swimming with big strands of grass in its mouth–cool!!!), it occurred to me that my reference to Joe’s Al-Qaeda reference may not have conveyed the tongue-in-cheek tone I intended. I fully understand that Joe was not really saying that snob zoning laws are as bad or evil as Al-Qaeda. Still, I felt his comparison failed because it wasn’t clear to me that a complete discussion of zoning should necessarily include his pet issue the same way a complete discussion of terrorism should of course include Al-Qaeda.

    That said, maybe it’s a bigger issue than I realize, but I read the papers and I rarely, strike that, have never heard or read the issue raised.

    As for what KentInDC is saying, well hell, I’m against it. If a developer wants to focus on big expensive houses, that’s their right. But government has no business forcing things to be one way or the other. And while I think it’s presumptuous to impugn nefarious motives to Reason on this account, it certainly wouldn’t hurt Reason’s image to address the issue.

  11. fyodor-

    Reason already gets plenty of flack for being (allegedly) too far to the left. If they have yet another article on how Big Government hurts the poor, that would, um, well, it would be bad! It would show sympathy with lefties, and we can’t have that!

  12. joe wrote:

    “It’s better to have 20 homes take up four acres than eight (and leave the rest of the area open), even if the eight would be marginally more green than the four. This is the idea behind cluster subdivisions.”

    I realize that cluster development is much better from a hydrology point of view. To use your example, I was not meaning to indicate that 20 2/5 acre lots are better for 20 acres than 20 1/5 acre lots with the remaining 4 acres as fallow. What I was asking hinged on the idea that you claimed plans such as Amherst’s allowed the building of MORE lots. So if those developers are allowed extra lots, are they forced to fit in the same 4 acres, squeezing the lot size down more, or are they allowed to take it out of the open space? Do they have to buy extra land as mitigation for it to keep the same 4 acres of open space? Do they have to put rain gardens in ditches, or rooftop discharge disconnects, or extra outfall stormwater management to treat the additional impervious areas. That was the main thrust of my question about it. I really wasn’t trying to prove a point, trying to find out more information about it. The lower densities I was speaking of were watershed based (i.e. 20 houses on 8 acres has the same density as 20 houses on 4 acres with 4 fallow). Sorry for my assumed nomenclature.

  13. thoreau,

    ha-ha, well damned if you doo-doo…….!

  14. Dangit, that got messed up. It shouldn’t ’20 acres’, it should be ‘8 acres’, staying consistent with the example brought up.

  15. Sorry, that should be ‘8 acres’ not ’20 acres’.

  16. Kent-
    Was that a typo, when you said 50-acre lots? Five is bad enough, but 50? Jeebus Exmas, that’s not a house lot–that’s a family farm!

    There are similar problems in Connecticut–lately the papers have been carrying more and more stories about how terrifying it is that soon the state will have no open land left; yet there’s hardly a placein the state where you can just buy a piece of land and erect a small, modest house–you have to either build a mansion or be a renter.

  17. Jennifer, you wouldn’t have a prayer. The constitutionality is well established. The only hope you would have of winning an anti-zoning case would be to demonstrate that the snob zoning discriminated against a class of people. No matter how bad a zoning law to a property owner, or how wrong-headed the assumptions behind it, the right of local governments to zone is recognized. This is a fight we have to win in the city councils, county boards, and state legislatures.

    zorel, “your snob zoning law argument has one flaw – it is not forcing others to bear the costs. If a builder can build ONLY 2 homes on 1 acre, he call sell 2 homes at whatever market price.” Snob zoning increases housing costs three ways. First, it artificially reduces the supply of housing by limiting the number of units in each buildings. Second, it reduces supply by limiting the number of units per acre. Third, it drives up the land acquisition and construction costs of the homes that do get built.

    fyodor, “Which means you’d agree with me that the even better solution is to just scrap the limits altogether?” Not altogether – there are some legitimate reasons to zone. I just don’t consider keeping the riff raff out to be among them, but it is probably the most common, most harmful aspect of zoning.

    Your friends may be environmentalists, but if they support minimum lot sizes, single family only zoning, or other efforts to spread people out so there will lots of trees outside their windows, they are wrong-headed environmentalists. If, on the other hand, the UGB is handled right, expanding when needed, allowing for appropriate densities inside, creating satellite UGBs when necessary, it need not cause a housing shortage. It may still offend your libertoid view of property rights, but there are plenty of ways to allow for adequate housing in a UGB. Like making sure there isn’t any snob zoning inside it.

    Similarly, if a city snob zones a couple neighborhoods, but allows sufficient opportunity for adequate housing to be built elsewhere, it need not put a sqeeze on housing supply – though it may offend your libertoid ideas about property rights, and my liberal ideas about elitism.

    Jennifer, the basement depth law might no be so bad, if the whole damn city hadn’t been built with deep basements already! That is the worst. Either massive black market, or disinvestment. Pick one.

    Highway, the density bonus allows you to built a couple more units within your buildable area, however that may be determined. So if your underlying zoning yields 20 units on 10 acres, and you file a cluster plan that puts those units on 4 acres, taking advantage of the density bonus would allow you to put 22 units on those 4 acres. Also, subdivisions in Massachusetts can’t increase or alter runoff off a site. So adding a couple more units into the footprint of a subdivision (and increasing the impervious area by two roofs and two driveways) requires that the stormwater system be a little bit bigger, but probably not to the extent that it would noticeable increase the developer’s cost – just make the berm around the detention pond a couple inches higher.

    Kent in DC gets it.

  18. Joe-
    If, as you say, the SCOTUS is on record as saying that zoning laws “keep pigs out of the parlor,” I find it hard to believe that some clever lawyer or lawyer’s group couldn’t use that phrase alone to start a movement to get this overturned.

    Better yet, find someone willing to be a martyr. Some cute, photogenic person who can give interviews to the press: “Yes, I am a property owner but I still live in a homeless shelter, because the city thinks that’s better than letting me live in my little trailer with the electricity and water hookups.”

  19. There’s plenty of low-cost housing out there. The stuff’s in bad neighborhoods but you get what you pay for.

    So you gotta live in Roxbury or Dorchester to stay within your means. Don’t like it? Improve your means!

  20. Jennifer,
    If you want to make yourself sympathetic, you need to get back to teachin’. Buy a lot near a rich school district that you teach at and say you wanted to live close to your students so you could better help them with their stuides. Repeal residential zoning laws, “it’s for the childrenTM”.

  21. Actually, JC, people could more easily live within their means if the government’s zoning laws didn’t artificially inflate the costs of getting a home. I am not asking for welfare or a subsidy; I am asking for the right to spend my money to buy land at market value, and then live on that land. I can easily afford one half-acre, but the government has mandated that I can’t buy less than five.

    Incidentally, I hope that “improve your means” comment was meant to be humorous. A country where only the wealthy can afford a safe, decent home is a country basically BEGGING for a violent revolution.

  22. “Not altogether – there are some legitimate reasons to zone”

    Joe, we’re going in circles here!! If the reasons for zoning are “legitimate,” i.e., damn good ones, such as a clear and present danger to life and limb, then I don’t see why the regs should be traded in for permanently deeded “affordable housing” (enforced permanently by generations of well-meaning bureaucrats). And if there’s not that kind of damn good reason for the zoning, then I don’t see why it should be there in the first place! Scrap it and you won’t need the complicated affordable housing incentive schemes!

    Uh….what’s a UGB?

  23. Urban Growth Boundry. I had to look it up too.

  24. Mo-

    Eeew. I’m not THAT desperate to help the cause.

    Well, off I go to another estate auction. Perhaps this will be one of those magical nights you sometimes read about in the paper, where I buy a crummy old picture frame for two bucks and then discover that it used to belong to da Vinci, who drew the Mona Lisa nude on the back. I sell it at Christie’s for five million dollars, become wealthy, and then make posts along the lines of JC:

    “Well, if you can’t afford today’s housing market despite being a hard worker, you just need to better yourselves.” Of course, that’s assuming I’d continue posting with hoi polloi anyway.

  25. Jen,

    Well now you brought “safe” and “decent” into the equation. Sorry to break the news to you, but those cost money. Donald Trump can buy more safety and decency than I can.

    I understand what you’re saying about having to buy X number of acres more than you want. I’ve been through the same thing. I wanted to build a 5-car garage, I was restricted from building anything larger than 3 in the area I was looking (a rather rural area). To make a long story short, I didn’t get to build my “dream”, but I came to a compromise I could live with.

    I’m no fan of zoning myself, it’s nothing but a protection racket. But zoning could be considered just another form of safety and decency you buy and sell.

  26. I’m wondering how joe can mention UGBs in a discussion of housing supply and demand without commenting on their effects on the same, in the same thread he takes Reason to task for not mentioning the effects on supply and demand of large lot zoning, and still expect anyone to take him seriously.

  27. Joe,

    To rephrase what I said in my last post more concisely, what limits on building do you consider “legitimate” enough to have yet not so important that we can’t remove them in return for affordibility “density bonuses?”

    JDM,

    Don’t worry, I don’t take anyone seriously!

  28. Damn, I mean:

    “…yet not so important that we CAN simply remove them in return for affordability ‘density bonuses?'”

    I think…

  29. “…when some units in a development are sold or rented for less than the market rate, developers compensate for their lost profits primarily by increasing the cost of the market-rate units…”

    The solution is easy: FORCE the developers NOT to raise their prices! That’s what government is for.
    Right?

  30. Wow, that’s the most self-fulfilling name I’ve seen in a while!

  31. Actually, a better solution is already in place in many cities; density bonuses for affordability. Allow the builder to make up for the lower profitability of the affordable units by permitting more market-rate units than would normally be allowed. The net result is a greater supply of housing, and a higher % of the housing stock being affordable. Google Amherst Massachusetts Zoning for a good example.

    More when I read the study…

  32. All zoning is snob zoning, it just depends on what you’re snobbish about. All zoning is either inclusionary or exclusionary.

    All zoning is in effect exlusionary, even the so-called inclusionary zoning because it specifically excludes certain uses of the property; in these cases it excludes the developer from selling all units at whatever price the market will bear. But in all zoning I’ve ever encountered, the fear is almost always a case of overbuilding, the fear that density will rear its ugly head. As joe has pointed out in the past, this is often a self-fulfilling prophecy as density restrictions usually result in sprawl which is a kind of density-creep unto itself – by limiting density open space disappears.

    The really interesting thing about zoning is that the property restrictions are more prevalent in the suburbs and rural areas than in cities. Most large cities have so many different zoning schemes going on that there really is something for just about everybody.

    What can I say, I live in a suburb surrounded on all sides by the city (chicago), I can walk to the grocery stores, I can walk to the mall (the mall keeps my property taxes way down), I can walk to the bus and the subway, my lot takes 90 minutes to mow, the neighborhood’s quiet, and it cost me less than the condos that went up 4 blocks away two years later. Lest you think I live in a one-of-a-kind area, I assure you there are a least half a dozen other areas in the city which are nearly identical in amenities, quality of life, and cost. And I’ve checked: my income would qualify me for the “affordable housing” that’s going up a few miles away.

    I grew up in the steel-making area of town where there is the opposite problem: more homes than buyers. This is part of the fear in the suburbs which contributes to the exclusionary zoning. The area is slowly becoming less dense, while suburban areas are becoming more dense. Once there’s enough contiguous vacant lots, they’ll be redeveloped at a lesser density until the secret gets out and the demand goes up again. All the zoning schemes won’t make the market move any faster. There’s several sections of town where the city had grand schemes and no buyers; eventually a section is idle long enough and they’ll do whatever any developer willing to take a gamble wants to do. Most gentrification works at the market’s pace, not the pace the politicians dictate.

  33. “Powell and Stringham said that when some units in a development are sold or rented for less than the market rate, developers compensate for their lost profits primarily by increasing the cost of the market-rate units …”

    Er, how is this possible? In a free-market, you can’t pass-along higher costs that apply only to you. If the government forces me to give the poor three five-dollar-bills for a ten, I can’t give the rich only one five to compensate — the rich will just go elsewhere.

    And if it were possible to charge the non-poor more, why wouldn’t developers be doing so without the government forcing them to subsidize the poor?

  34. “…permitting more market-rate units than would normally be allowed.”

    “Permitting.”
    “Allowed.”

    Thank you, Mommy, for letting us build houses.
    I promise to behave and never to complain again.

  35. how about just letting developers build what the market wants, without any zoning or land use planning?

    but that would be too simple and look like freedom… i hate urban “planners” what a communist field

  36. I’m working to solve the problem, and having some success.

    You’re whining like a loose fan belt, and not getting anything done.

  37. JC-
    Actually, I thought you were the one bringing “safe” and “decent” into the equation, by mentioning the fact that right now, poor people can only afford dangerous neighborhoods like Roxbury.

  38. joe,

    How does that balance against the wishes of the environmental lobby, who push for lower densities based on the idea that imperviousness causes environmental degradation (which it can definitely do)? Are those concerns addressed through forcing more set-aside land, additional stormwater management, or more low-impact development ideas, or are there areas that this kind of waiver are not allowed (like special protection areas), or are the environmental concerns given a lower weight in certain areas based on the need to provide more housing?

    Also, are the ‘affordable’ units really lower profitability? Or are they more realistically called built at a loss that the developer eats by passing on the costs to the ‘market’ buyers? If so, the increased density makes the increased costs lower, but still doesn’t change the issue that the other buyers have to pay for it.

    Another question about ‘affordable housing’ in general. Are houses that are sold below market value deeded that they must always stay as ‘affordable housing’? Or can the owner later sell the unit at market cost?

    Also, are the ‘affordable’ units built differently? Lower quality fixtures, fewer extras, etc? I guess that’s mainly a individual builder’s choice, but I just don’t have any experience with it.

  39. Actually, hey, virtually all of the planners I know support significantly curtailing zoning ordinances that drive up housing costs, especially those worst of villians, – single-family-only districts, high minimum lot sizes, and bans on mixed use (storefronts with apartments above) buildings. Maybe you don’t know as much about the field as you pretend to?

    Nick, it’s been three years, I still haven’t seen a single word about what snob zoning does to the housing market.

  40. One of the many reasons I choose to rent.

  41. “How does that balance against the wishes of the environmental lobby, who push for lower densities based on the idea that imperviousness causes environmental degradation (which it can definitely do)?”

    First, “the environmental lobby” is not pushing for lower density, because low density suburbia, while having more green stuff, has only a shade more ecological capacity than a concrete city with street trees. For example, lawns are not actually impervious – most of the water than hits them moves as surface runoff, nearly as much so as a roadway (the soil is compacted from repeated mowing and use). It’s better to have 20 homes take up four acres than eight (and leave the rest of the area open), even if the eight would be marginally more green than the four. This is the idea behind cluster subdivisions.

    Though there is some degree of tradeoff that needs to be taken into account. I believe Amherst has certain protection districts in which very low densities are required, but in general, the same number of units in a smaller footprint is greener, even if the footprint itself is more grey.

    Amherst’s system is based on carrots, if I recall. If the extra units don’t make up for the loss (or lower profit, depending on conditions), then they build according to the underlying zoning. But they’ve enticed a lot of developers, so it’s clearly offering them something attractive.

    Affordable houses are usually deeded to remain affordable for some period of time, or permanently. However, typically, the buyer is allowed to make a profit when he sells – just not the windfall that would result from buying at an affordable rate and selling at a market rate. The statement “at the rate of inflation” is wrong. Affordability is typically pegged to the region’s median family income, and the home must be affordable to someone earning X% of median. Since property values track pretty closely with median income, affordable owners typically are allowed to make a profit of inflation + the increase in median income.

    Different communities have different regs about how to construct affordable houses. I believe Amherst requires the homes to be indistinguishable from the outside. But then, it’s entirely possible to build a two family that looks for all the world like an ordinary colonial.

  42. The problem is people don’t make enough money for their houses. Fine. Solutions:

    Get the government out of the low-income housing market (If I was a developer why should I try and build affordable housing when the gubmint already has a monopoly?)

    Give money to those who need it. “Give” meaning not forcefully taken through my taxes. Donate. Charity. Freely choose to help those people.

    If only those tight-assed, “progressive”, f*!#wads would open up their own wallets to help these people, (rather than forcing it upon others), things would be better.

  43. I support a few zoning regs for businesses–for instance, I agree it should be illegal to build a munitions plant next door to a school–but I never understood the point of zoning laws that prevent PEOPLE from settling in certain areas. If not for zoning laws, I would buy an inexpensive parcel of land (plenty available around here) and put a trailer on it. Nothing fancy, and feel free to make “trailer trash” jokes if you wish, but I could afford to buy property outright and live rent-free whilst saving my money to buy a nice house. Instead, zoning laws force me to piss away a big chunk of rent money every month.

  44. I don’t see any value in the type of zoning laws that would prevent that, Jennifer, except for snobbishness. Unfortunately, the small government conservatives who typically idealize property rights tend to clam up when the government’s regulations prevent non-rich people from moving into their communities.

    Three years, not even a brickbat piece about snob zoning – which is the biggest distorter of the housing market, making the inclusionary zoning described in this piece a sideshow.

  45. I can maybe see how a trailer might come off badly compared to a house. But in most cases, such as mine, it’s not a choice between owning a trailer versus owning a house; it’s owning a trailer versus renting an apartment.

    On a side note, you know what I’d do if I ever got really, really rich? Buy a house in Greenwich, the snobbiest city in New England, and then post “room for rent” signs in various strip-club dressing rooms. (Greenwich, CT is such an enclave of snob zoning that their beaches and parks are off-limits to anyone who does not live in Greenwich. Finally the state told them “Look, those beaches are state property, so you can’t keep others out,” and so the folks in Greenwich responded by charging 30-dollar-a-day parking fees to non-city residents.)

    On second thought, forget filling my house with strippers. I’ll find me some crack whores instead.

  46. Jennifer,
    How would the neighbors know the girls were strippers? In one apartment complex in which I lived, I had an upstairs neighbor who was a stripper. The only way I knew she was a stripper was that I found her wallet near my car one morning; it had her work ID and wads of dollar bills inside. I then realized there were probably quite a few strippers in the complex. It was one of the few complexes in town with controlled access and there seemed to be a lot of attractive young women who drove new cars and just hung out at the pool all day.

    Being a stripper is almost mainstream these days. In my law school (with a reputation for being one of the most conservative law schools in the US), there were at least two former strippers in a class of 120. One of them even did it as a summer job when she was home from college.

  47. O.K. Gov’t knows best. Let’s take those high density neighborhoods where R.E. costs are out of sight and just move most of those folks to Nebraska, Montana, etc. where some towns are giving building lots away…that’s right! Just like the old homesteaders! If you don’t want to live in Nebraska….tough. It’s all for the environment. SWe’ve given the power to gov’t for everything else, what’s one more power?

  48. O.K. Gov’t knows best. Let’s take those high density neighborhoods where R.E. costs are out of sight and just move most of those folks to Nebraska, Montana, etc. where some towns are giving building lots away…that’s right! Just like the old homesteaders! If you don’t want to live in Nebraska….tough. It’s all for the environment. SWe’ve given the power to gov’t for everything else, what’s one more power?

  49. Did I mention that I hate DC?

    Just checking.

  50. Douglas, have you seen the new high-rise condo/retail/office property going up at the corner of Clarendon and Rhodes in Arlington? Wednesday night, they held a “preview reception” at Clarendon Ballroom. About 2,000 people showed up and stood in line for more than an hour to get in and get handed a brochure of conceptual art and floor plans, simply because a) the project is new, b) it’s convenient to a lot of offices and two Metro stops, c) the units were advertised “starting in the mid-$200s.” After you get 2,000 people to show up, of course, the units will start in the mid $500s. Thus goes more affordable housing in Arlington County.

  51. Jennifer,
    No typo. Loudon Co. has been trying to have certain areas of the county limited to fifty acre lots. They won’t have to build too many new schools if that sticks. I have not kept up on the progress, but it has been a pretty contentious battle between (supposed) property owners and the true owners at the courthouse.

    By the way, I think zoning regs DO tend to be for sale. Buying zoning regs can be a pretty good investment. I have mixed feelings on people who do that. I can’t blame people for paying the price to gain control of their own property, but it only encourages the zoners and makes life tougher for everyone in the long run.

  52. Phil,

    No, I don’t live in the DC area any more. Been out of that loop for 3 years. I keep hearing wonderful things from back there, though. A nice distraction from the antics of our local meth freaks here in Phoenix.

    No, I wasn’t talking about the Governor!

  53. Between the status quo and dj’s thoughts, above, I’m with DJ! Though talking about turning mansions into apartment houses is going to drive the conservative half of libertarians into the arms of the government.

    JDM, I wrote that UBG’s NEED NOT cause housing shortages, and outlined some ways to achieve that. Obviously, the implication is that they can cause that problem, and cities that adopt them need to work to avoid it. I think Portland should have started New Portland back in the 90s. But thank you for a reponse that was both substantive and civil.

    Jennifer, you have no idea how irrational the hatred of mobile homes is, and how powerful. The dehumanizing “trailer trash” slur has worked – people think and talk about trailer parks exactly like nests of vermin. You’d have better luck trying to build a two family, so you can afford to live in town on the salary the townsfolk pay you to teach their children.

    Russ D, great post. But FYI, in the planning/real estate/government biz, “exclusionary zoning” is defined as a policy of using zoning to keep certain demographic groups from living in a community, while “inclusionary zoning” refers to efforts to make it possible for the group in question to live there.

    fyodor, I’ll pass for now on posting joe’s universal theory of zoning and how everything should be. Land use controls, land law and city planning go back for thousands of years, and are an inheritance whose shape is the result of generation after generation of tinkering and satisficing and codifying the common sense of different eras. What’s more, all that baggage is very much locked in, in steel and concrete and wood and pavement, and creating the perfect all new zoning scheme (in whatever form) isn’t going to change that. So it’s really not very useful to talk about Good Zoning, in a Platonic sense. Read my references to legitimacy as referring to a sliding scale.

  54. Re: 50 acre lots. In Montana, many locals complain about the “suburban sprawl” created by subdividing the landscape into 40 acre ranchettes. Here in New England, we refer to that as “viable agriculture.” But I guess when the horizon is 200 miles away…

  55. joe,
    I just read your comment that I “get it.” Thanks. Like you, I think “snob zoning” is the worst. Unlike you, I have a strong aversion to zoning in general. I am still looking for an area in which the State can plan better than private parties.

    I’m with you and Jennifer on the trailer issue. I think the problem with “manufactured housing” is mainly self-fulfilling prophecy. People associate manufactured housing with low quality and city officials team up with builders to scare people by a decrease in their property values if they allow “trailers” in a neighborhood. So, manufactured housing tends to be limited to lower income areas. Would you buy a car built the way your home is? There is no reason to believe that manufactured housing can’t be of higher quality than site-built homes. However, with snob zoning so prevalent, it will likely be a while before we get a chance to find out for sure.

    I have a niece who lives in a double-wide in AL. My girlfriend, who owns a very nice house in Northern VA, had never been inside a “trailer.” (There are only a handful left in the entire greater DC metro area.) When we visited my niece, my girlfriend was amazed at how nice her home was and at the low price. My niece’s lot and home together cost a fraction of what an addition of comparable square footage cost my girlfriend.

    I grew up on “the wrong side of the tracks” (I actually saw my hometown of 7,000 described that way in a newspaper article in a city 300 miles away.) and know there are plenty of decent people living in “trailers.” Some people just aren’t trying to impress anyone and if living in a trailer suits them, who are we to question their choice?

  56. You’d be surpised by the quality of manufacture that goes into mobile homes. Some of them are indistinguishable from site built ranches.

    The whole trailer-hating thing is totally irrational.

  57. No libertarian should be for zoning!

    It is your land. Live on it the way you please.

    Change every fifth mansion into an apartment house.

    Change every fifth lot into four smaller ones.

    Isn’t diversity a good thing?
    end zoning.

  58. Hear, hear, DJ! Oh, and I forgot to ask JC another question: he said that zoning was “another form of decency you buy and sell.” Uh, how does one go about buying or selling zoning? I have some extra money this month, and if you know of any zoning regulations on sale at a good price I think I’d like to invest.

    Also, your statement sort of implies that “decency” and “money” are the same thing.

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