This paper develops a new approach for measuring the stringency of a major form of land use regulation, building height restrictions, and applies it to an extraordinary data set of land-lease transactions from China. Our theory shows that the elasticity of land price with respect to the floor area ratio (FAR), a building height indicator, is a measure of the regulation’s stringency (the extent to which FAR is kept below the free-market level). Using a national sample, estimation allowing this elasticity to be city-specific shows variation in the stringency of FAR regulation across Chinese cities. Single-city estimation for Beijing shows that stringency varies with site characteristics.
The Review of Economics and Statistics