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Working Papers

Urban Housing Markets

Working paper #608
Joseph Gyourko

The decline in the share of substandard housing in U.S. cities is a major urban success of the last half century. Indicators of housing consumption at the bottom end of the income distribution also show improvement over recent decades. Given these favorable changes, the challenges that housing markets provide for cities and urban public policy more generally now lie more in how they mediate urban growth and decline. The durability of housing is a major reason why urban decline is such a lengthy process and why the poor and less skilled tend to concentrate in declining markets. Among growing cities, the rise of local land use and building restrictions helps determine whether strong demand manifests itself more in terms of higher house prices or population growth. Thus, these regulations affect where we live, and there is evidence of increased spatial sorting along income lines. These examples illustrate that how housing markets function has important implications for how cities function, for better or worse.

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