Land-Use Regulations, Property Values, and Rents: Decomposing the Effects of the California Coastal Act
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.