Fascinating piece in the New York Times about how local zoning and development regulations that are “anti-growth” may, in fact, be slowing economic growth as much as $1.5 trillion per year.
Essentially, in fast-growing communities where there are more jobs and more higher paying jobs, local development rules make it difficult or impossible for low-income people to afford to live there. As a result, those people don’t move to areas with more, higher-paying jobs — which is what you would expect them to do in a free market where people make rational economic choices.
But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy.
It has even to some extent changed how Americans of different incomes view opportunity. Unlike past decades, when people of different socioeconomic backgrounds tended to move to similar areas, today, less-skilled workers often go where jobs are scarcer but housing is cheap, instead of heading to places with the most promising job opportunities, according to research by Daniel Shoag, a professor of public policy at Harvard, and Peter Ganong, also of Harvard.
One reason they’re not migrating to places with better job prospects is that rich cities like San Francisco and Seattle have gotten so expensive that working-class people cannot afford to move there. Even if they could, there would not be much point, since whatever they gained in pay would be swallowed up by rent.
The story spotlights Boulder, Colo., as one example of this, and mentions San Francisco as another. Here in North Carolina, it seems we’ve seen this same dynamic in Chapel Hill and perhaps other parts of the Research Triangle region.
Certainly makes it worth reconsidering how we handle local development ordinances.