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We’re running out of land — or are we?

The headline, here, is that “the US is running short of land for housing.” But if you read the article, you’ll see that the headline should probably read, “the US has land-use restrictions in place that make it unnecessarily difficult to build enough new housing.” Here’s an excerpt:

Asking prices for homes in these new communities [the exurbs of Tampa] go as high as $900,000, in part because the land underneath is so valuable. That has a lot to do with land-use regulations.

Tampa’s zoning rules prevent developers from building anything larger than a single-family home in much of the city. When officials for Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, adopted zoning regulations in 1950, they said the measures were necessary to prevent overcrowding and traffic jams and would preserve the neighborhood character, all “with a view to conserving the value of buildings,” according to the regulations.

If all you can build are single-family homes, then you’re going to need a lot more land compared to if you were allowed to build a bit higher and/or a bit denser. But it is a good way to ensure that supply remains somewhat scarce and that one is faithfully “conserving the value of buildings.”

It is, however, worth mentioning that we have invented ways to use land more efficiently. The population density of Hillsborough County is somewhere around 1,200 people per square mile. The population density of Paris, on the other hand, is over 50,000 people per square mile.

Somehow people still enjoy Paris.

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