Regulating land use is driving up housing costs, decreasing options and limiting choice for Canadians, particularly low-income families. That’s the warning in this AIMS commentary, Regulating the Land Market, by Samuel R. Staley, the Director of Urban and Land Use Policy at the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles, California.

Based on comments written for his participation in a panel on Urban Sprawl and Smart Growth for the Canadian Regional Science Association in Toronto, Staley says that political approaches to land-use planning increase uncertainty and development costs, which increases housing costs. He points out that land use regulations are having a dramatic impact on the type, quality, and quantity of housing available.

“The choices we make about how we regulate the land market have profound implications for the choices we face everyday as homeowners, parents, employees and employers,” he explains.

Staley uses Toronto’s greenbelt and densification policy as an example of regulations that have neither been explored through public discourse nor rational analysis. He explains that the argument was made that development is eating up open space at unsustainable rates, yet development in Ontario accounts for just five percent of all land. Others argued that transit reduces traffic congestion, yet 85 percent of Toronto residents depend on their car to get to work and run errands. In addition, car travel is expected to grow by 50 percent over the next three decades, but roadway capacity will only increase by 10 percent.

“Urban growth boundaries and greenbelts are blunt instruments that are likely to undermine housing and neighbourhood choice by artificially limiting the supply of land,” writes Staley.

He concludes that Canadians are more likely to achieve growth-management objectives by embracing market forces rather than by attempting to trump them through more comprehensive government control of land.
Click here to read the full commentary.