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October 21, 2005

Housing: "We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us"

A nice piece in the NY Times by Hal Varian on one of my favorite themes, the way zoning drives up housing prices. And Varian also underlines the political element of this dynamic:

Zoning laws and land use restrictions are unpopular among those seeking less-costly housing since they push up the price. But by the same token, once a searcher becomes an owner, he often becomes a fervent supporter of such restrictions. As Pogo put it, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
This is a classic case of the "haves" using their political power to undermine life for the "have-nots." George Will once referred to zoning laws as weapons of "suburban Bolsheviks", his point being that so-called anti-government conservatives love government went it serves their interests. But you can refer to the same tools as weapons of "urban conservativism"-- supposedly preserving neighborhoods, but in practice preserving the capital gains of existing homeowners at the expense of the poor and young.

Via Brad DeLong

Posted by Nathan at October 21, 2005 01:11 PM