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Working Papers

Residential Land Use Regulation in the Philadelphia MSA

Working paper #560
Joseph Gyourko and Anita A. Summers

Land-use regulation of residential housing is ubiquitous across the Philadelphia metropolitan area, as it is across the nation. However, on average, the communities in this metropolitan area have a much more regulated land use control climate than does the typical American community. Formal approval of projects, even when proper zoning is in place, is required in virtually all communities. Most Philadelphia MSA communities control density with some type of minimum lot size restraint. A third have affordable housing requirements; two-thirds have open space and infrastructure cost requirements. Review times in the region are almost double those of the average for the rest of the nation. There is more regulatory control in communities with higher income, higher housing values, higher education, and a higher proportion of white residents. The densest places have experienced the smallest lot cost increases over the past decade—a finding contradictory with the hypothesis that land scarcity is the cause of higher prices.

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