This Week in Land-Use Regulation, June 14

This Week in Land-Use Regulation, June 14

New Research

Who benefits from local productivity growth? Everyone, find Richard Hornbeck and Enrico Moretti, though to varying degrees. The benefits are greater for homeowners than for renters, mostly because increased housing costs offset wage gains. Inequality in these areas declined due to greater gains for low-skilled workers, and while productivity growth between 1980 and 1990 increased average American purchasing power by 0.5% to 0.6% per year, these gains were more attributable to location than education.


Birth rates dropped most in counties with highest home price growth. Zillow finds fertility rates declined the most in counties that experienced the highest home price growth, but declined less (or even increased) in the counties with lower price growth, with an extra 10% increase in home prices associated with a 1.5% decline in birth rates for 25 to 29-year-old women. The author also finds that the average home buyer’s age increased by almost 3 years from 2010 to 2017.


San Francisco needs a more inclusive economy. The Bay Area has seen some of the greatest economic growth in the United States, but these gains have not been accessible to everyone. Housing prices in the area exclude many. About one-third (2 million) residents are struggling to make ends meet, with African Americans and Hispanics comprising almost 50% of this population.


The advantage of suburbs over cities for living is smaller than data show. Last month, William Frey’s analysis of Census data found that suburbs have overtaken cities in population growth. CityLab’s Joe Cortright highlights how some of the results are attributable to the way city limits are defined; some low-density areas are included in city boundaries while others aren’t. Both authors agree that this shift is due to low growth in housing supply in major metropolitan areas.



Reforms for Washington, D.C.’s historic preservation process. Almost 20% of the buildings in D.C. are either designated historic or in a historic preservation district. The District’s Historic Preservation Review Board requirements for designation seem reasonable at first blush, but designation has been used too broadly and at the expense of greater economic development. Read the story of how outside groups influenced Kingman Park’s recent designation as a historic district. More about the effects of historic preservation districts in New York and California can be found in our reference library.


Atlanta has a 230,000 housing unit deficit. Over the past half-decade, Atlanta has added an average of 75,000 jobs per year, but only 30,000 housing permits on average. It’s because of “the lack of supply and growing demand,” Geoff Koski, of the Bleakly Advisory Group, said. “Prices go up. It’s just that simple.”


The Philadelphia City Council wants to tax new buildings to pay for affordable housing. The 1% tax on new construction is expected to raise $22 million per year. The money would go to giving qualified buyers up to $10,000 for down payments and closing costs, but even a family of four making up to $105,000 per year would qualify. Lower-income residents in Philadelphia are no more likely to move from gentrifying areas than higher-income residents in the same gentrifying neighborhoods, but when they do move they go to lower-income neighborhoods. Between 2000 and 2014, the city lost almost 24,000 housing units with rents below $750 per month.


Rent strikes by residents of decrepit D.C. housing. Tenants living with roaches, bed bugs, mold, plus fire and water damage have had enough and are refusing to pay rent until conditions improve. “Areas facing gentrification” the article says, “are the most likely to experience such strikes…because their residents are so keenly aware of being displaced.” Zoning to allow more housing would mitigate these effects and open the possibility for equitable growth in addition to unleashing market forces that incentivize landlords to make their housing more livable.


London Breed will be San Francisco’s next mayor. The candidate was the most pro-housing development candidate in the race, voicing support for the failed SB 827 and stating “housing still isn’t built because of these obstructionists.” Read more about the role of San Francisco’s housing shortage on the mayoral race in The Economist.


New York’s economy is becoming more centralized as younger workers move to the city. New York City’s prime-age (25 to 54) workforce has increased by 17%, almost three times the national average of 6%. The returns from higher proximity between workers in the information economy and the increased demand for urban amenities has driven this increased centralization.

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By |2018-06-15T07:04:28-07:00June 14th, 2018|Blog, Land Use Regulation|