The empirical literature on the effects of regulation on housing prices varies widely in quality of research method and strength of result. A number of credible papers seem to bear out theoretical expectations. When local regulators effectively withdraw land from buildable supplies—whether under the rubric of “zoning,” “growth management,” or other regulation—the land factor and the finished product can become pricier. Caps on development, restrictive zoning limits on allowable densities, urban growth boundaries, and long permit-processing delays have all been associated with increased housing prices. The literature fails, however, to establish a strong, direct causal effect, if only because variations in both observed regulation and methodological precision frustrate sweeping generalizations. A substantial number of land use and growth control studies show little or no effect on price, implying that sometimes, local regulation is symbolic, ineffectual, or only weakly enforced. The literature as a whole also fails to address key empirical challenges.
Journal of Policy Development and Research