Thursday, November 12, 2015

Notes on Planning and Land Use

Timothy Taylor highlighted a recent Cato article which asked, "Can 'Planning' Deregulate Land Use?" While initially the title could be confusing, the authors explain:
To overcome NIMBY politics and development constraints, urban areas should consider binding, comprehensive, citywide plans.
An important reason why cities can end up with inflexible plans for property use, is the fact that individual negotiations aren't just messy and uncertain; they can also detract from land value. Easily ascertained boundaries are important, and development proceeds more readily when economic options are obvious from the beginning. In their study, Roderick Hills and David Schleicher conclude:
Paradoxically, sometimes rigidity and centralization of a general framework for buying and selling land is more market-friendly than the bargaining free-for-all that keeps everyone guessing - and paying lobbyists to improve the odds of their guesses.
How to square this reality, with the need for more options and diversity in land use? Decentralization could contribute to environments with distinct or unique forms of land use, instead of multiple usage seemingly all in one place. Groups also function more effectively, when common patterns exist within a close range.

The problem - however - is that the same economic patterns have been imposed time and again, in the U.S. A prime example is infrastructure which accommodates automobile use first, and everything else afterward. Even though many legal impositions begin at national levels, some state legislatures don't hesitate to impose one size fits all rules for cities, as well. Ultimately, the refusal to make room for economic diversity, creates problems for long term growth.

Decentralization in land use planning, would give a much needed unique character to land use. Of course, some states would be more amenable than others, to permitting the variance which would be needed at local levels. With a little luck, these states could provide early arenas, to restore economic vitality and long term growth.

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