Exclusionary Megacities

56 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2017 Last revised: 29 Jan 2019

See all articles by Wendell Pritchett

Wendell Pritchett

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Shitong Qiao

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law; Duke University School of Law

Date Written: July 11, 2017


Human beings should live in places where they are most productive, and megacities, where information, innovation and opportunities congregate, would be the optimal choice. Yet megacities in both China and the U.S. are excluding people by limiting housing supply. Why, despite their many differences, is the same type of exclusion happening in both Chinese and U.S. megacities? Urban law and policy scholars argue that Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) homeowners are taking over megacities in the U.S. and hindering housing development therein. They pin their hopes on an efficient growth machine that makes sure “above all, nothing gets in the way of building.” Yet the growth-dominated megacities of China demonstrate that relying on business and political elites to provide affordable housing is a false hope. Our comparative study of the homeowner-dominated megacities of the U.S. and growth-dominated megacities of China demonstrates that the origin of exclusionary megacities is not a choice between growth elites and homeowners, but the exclusionary nature of property rights. Our study reveals that megacities in the two countries share a property-centered approach, which prioritizes the maximization of existing property interests and neglects ultimate housing consumers’ interests, resulting in unaffordable housing. Giving housing consumers a voice in land use control and urban governance becomes the last resort to counteract this result. This comparative study shows that the conventional triangular framework of land use comprising government, developers, and homeowners is incomplete, and argues for a citizenship-based approach to urban governance. The essential component of this approach is clearly defining the boundary between the political and property markets, facilitating citizens’ equal access and participation in the political market that set general parameters for development while leaving individual development decisions to the property market.

Keywords: Megacities; Agglomeration; Exclusion; Unaffordable Housing; Not in My Backyard (NIMBY); Land Monopoly; Land Use Regulations; Zoning; Urban Governance; Property Rights; China

JEL Classification: K11; R31; R30; R38; R14; D23; D42; O57

Suggested Citation

Pritchett, Wendell and Qiao, Shitong and Qiao, Shitong, Exclusionary Megacities (July 11, 2017). Southern California Law Review, Vol. 91, No. 3, 2018, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2017/031, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 17-47, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3000724 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3000724

Wendell Pritchett

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-573-5086 (Phone)
215-573-2025 (Fax)

Shitong Qiao (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.hku.hk/academic_staff/dr-shitong-qiao/

Duke University School of Law ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://law.duke.edu/fac/qiao/

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