The Evolution of Zoning Since the 1980s: The Persistence of Localism

William A. Fischel

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics

September 1, 2010

Zoning is the regulation of the use of land by local government. Although it is the most jealously guarded municipal power, zoning is not a static institution. I demonstrate this by reviewing several "top down" attempts to reform zoning in the last three decades. Examples are the affordable housing movement and regulatory takings litigation. I argue that these reforms have either failed or tended to make local zoning more restrictive. I then review new research on the origins of zoning in Los Angeles and find evidence that zoning has always been more of a bottom up institution than most of its critics have assumed. Local knowledge of neighborhood conditions and widespread ownership of property are the most important factors that keep zoning local. Reforms that do not take into account these factors are not likely to succeed.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

Keywords: zoning, local control, affordable housing, regulatory takings

JEL Classification: H70, K11, R52

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Date posted: October 3, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Fischel, William A., The Evolution of Zoning Since the 1980s: The Persistence of Localism (September 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1686009 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1686009

Contact Information

William A. Fischel (Contact Author)
Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2940 (Phone)
603-646-2122 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~wfischel/
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