Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Locking the Door Behind Them

The NY Times address the issue of using zoning laws to slow down growth in New York City. Residents of less densely-populated neigborhoods are pressuring the city to place tighter restrictions on development, particularly the type that will increase population density. The article is suprisingly balanced, giving time to both those who support restrictions to protect the character of neighborhoods and those who feel that increasing the population density of the city is a positive move. What is left out of the discussion is the economic effect these types of zoning regulations. New York is already one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live, and my high school economics students will be able to tell you that by reducing the supply of places to live in a given location, you are going to drive up the price. This will also force people who work in the city to live further away and endure long commuting times, increasing traffic congestion, pollution, and demands on transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, there is undoubtly an upper-class welfare angle to this issue. The people pushing for these zoning bylaws are by and large on the upper tier of the socioeconomic totem pole. Zoning laws, while made in the name of preserving "neighborhood character", are a convenient way for people to lock the door behind them by the neighborhood in questions too expensive for the vast majority of citizens, while driving up their own property values. This type of rent-seeking by the politically-connected class of society is all too common and although I completely understand the desire of city dwellers to maintain their neighborhoods as they are, I can't support the consequences of these types of policies.

UPDATE: See here and here for more commentary on this issue.

4 Comments:

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Garry said...

Wouldn't you agree, though, that residents of a given neighbourhood have the right to live where and how they want? If they chose, 10 years ago, to live in a quiet, upper middle class neighbourhood, shouldn't they have they right to oppose the development of apartment buildings or the like?

 
At 8:43 PM, Blogger Garry said...

Isn't it funny that the security feature is called "word verification" yet it is always just some random letters?

 
At 10:00 PM, Blogger Scott McC said...

Well, for starters nobody should assume that their neighborhood will be a static entity for all eternity. And sure, they can oppose the development of new buildings. But I don't think they should be able to game the political system to keep other people out of their neighborhood. If someone has the "right" to keep things the same in their neighborhood, don't other people have the "right" to buy land in that area and use it as they see fit? If they don't like how their neighborhood is changing, they can try and change that (you don't have to sell to developers), or you can move. So no, I don't agree. (except with the part about word verification)

 
At 10:21 PM, Blogger Scott McC said...

The irony is of course, that the same upper-class liberals who love to talk about "defending the rights of the poor" actively, albeit ignorantly, engage in many activities that are essentially a giant "screw you" to those less well off than themselves. They're more than happy to support income mobility for the poor. Unless it might change THEIR way of life.

 

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