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Stringency of land-use regulation: Building heights in US cities

Jan Brueckner () and Ruchi Singh

Journal of Urban Economics, 2020, vol. 116, issue C

Abstract: This paper explores the stringency of land-use regulation in US cities, focusing on building heights. Stringency is substantial when regulated heights are far below free-market heights, while stringency is lower when the two values are closer. Using FAR (the floor-area ratio) as a height index, theory shows that the elasticity of the land price with respect to FAR is a proper stringency measure. This elasticity is estimated for five US cities by combining CoStar land-sales data with FAR values from local zoning maps, and the results show that New York and Washington, D.C., have stringent height regulations, while Chicago’s and San Francisco’s regulations are less stringent (Boston represents an intermediate case). The paper also provides evidence on stringency variation within the cities.

Date: 2020
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Working Paper: Stringency of Land-Use Regulation: Building Heights in US Cities (2018) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2020.103239

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