Home is Where the Zoning Is
By Amy Willis
It’s said that moving homes is one of the most stressful life experiences we can endure. This episode may shed some light on why. EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes Jenny Schuetz, whose work focuses on land use and housing. The conversation is based in part on a recent article Schuetz wrote on what we can learn about housing from Little Women. What are these lessons Schuetz thinks we’ve missed in the 21st century? Why aren’t property rights enough to determine how land is used, and what sort(s) of housing options it might support? Why can’t we address the problem of homelessness in urban areas more effectively? And how have we turned some of our most beloved urban centers into nothing more than “museums” for the wealthy to enjoy?
Let’s hear what you think about these challenging issues. Use the conversation starters below to get you going.
1- What are some of the regulatory barriers to new home building Schuetz describes, and which do you think are the most pernicious? Why?
2- What lesson(s) are we to learn from the Great Recession about housing, according to Schuetz? Why has the number of real estate development firms gone down since the Great Recession?
3- How does the bootlegger and Baptist theory apply to housing development? Schuetz says, “…the problem is: The only people who get to vote, who get to put direct political pressure on elected officials, are the people who already live there. The people who would benefit from the new housing live in another jurisdiction altogether.” What does she mean, and what are some of the consequences of this?
4- How are zoning and land use regulations contributing to increasing rates of homelessness? Why do both Roberts and Schuetz insist it’s NOT appropriate to blame “greedy landlords” for people not being able to afford housing? To what extent do you agree?
5- Roberts asks Schuetz why zoning and land use regulations have become so much more restrictive over the past several decades. How does she respond? Similarly, he asks what she thinks ought be done. How does Schuetz advocate the use of “fiscal tools” to change people’s behavior? To what extent does she convince you?