Smart growth and regulation aren't the same thing
Most debate over the relationship between smart growth, zoning regulations, and housing prices divides city and state governemnts into two categories: (a) laissez-faire, pro-sprawl governments and (b) growth management-oriented governments that seek to limit sprawl. If this assumption was correct, any link between government regulation and housing prices would be evidence of a link between growth management and housing prices.
But a recent survey by three Wharton professors (available at
calls this dichotomy into question. The survey seeks to ascertain which states and regions are the most pro-regulation. Contrary to popular myth, the most regulatory governments are not always the ones that favor "smart growth."
In particular, Table 11 of the survey ranks metropolitan areas by the amount of government regulation. Portland, the bete noire of smart growth critics, ranks only No. 24 out of 47; in other words, Portland's level of regulation is about average among metropolitan areas.
By contrast, the most regulation-happy metro areas (Providence, Boston, Monmouth County New Jersey, and Philadelphia) are all in areas with weak or nonexistent statewide growth management.
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