Zoning restrictions are making the construction of housing more difficult, and that is driving up the cost of housing in many cities.
What’s more, that effect is having an impact beyond the construction industry, according to a study by two economists, Chang-Tai Hsieh of the University of Chicago and Enrico Moretti of the University of California at Berkeley. They estimate that zoning restrictions reduced U.S. GDP as a whole by 9% percent a year, or roughly $1.5 trillion a year.
Some urbanists and city planners view the key to rebuilding cities, reigniting innovation, and improving productivity is to do away with onerous zoning codes and land-use restrictions that stymie much-needed development. This is particularly true when it comes to housing in certain technology and economic hubs such as like New York and San Francisco.
The two economists recently published an update to their study, and found that such zoning constraints lowered the aggregate growth by more than half between 1964 and 2009. The study advocates for investing in mass transit, light rail, subways and high-speed rail to connect places together. Such investments in transit are likely to have a much bigger positive economic impact than eliminating land use restrictions by linking job centers to outlying places, where land is relatively cheap and housing more affordable, the economists argue.