California cities have some of the highest housing prices in the United States, but most of the state’s urbanized land is set aside for the least efficient uses. Using data from a new survey of land use planners in approximately 270 California jurisdictions (the Terner Center California Residential Land Use Survey), I find that the share of land zoned for single-family housing and more restrictive minimum lot size requirements predict higher housing costs compared to other jurisdictions in the same metropolitan area. Likewise, the degree of political opposition to housing development predicts higher prices, longer delays for lawful projects, and a lower likelihood of zoning reform. This opposition to development is greater in areas with a higher proportion of non-Hispanic White and highly educated residents. Finally, I find that both the intensity of land use and degree of opposition to development predict a lower share of Black, Hispanic, and blue-collar workers living in the area, compared to jurisdictions in the same metropolitan area.
Terner Center for Housing Innovation