Job Market Paper

“Decentralized Zoning Authority and Agglomeration: Evidence from Aldermanic Privilege in Chicago” Draft

Abstract: I combine data on thousands of small zoning changes in Chicago with shifts in Alderman-controlled Ward boundaries to study the consequences of decentralized control over land-use regulation. I find that increasing zoning density reduces local house prices with an elasticity of -1.6%. Zoning is more restrictive in areas near Ward boundaries, and exogenous shifts in within-Ward homeownership share make zoning changes smaller. I then integrate locally-varying and endogenous zoning into a quantitative spatial model of city structure. Renters and homeowners sort into neighborhoods on heterogeneous location preferences, and vote on local zoning decisions---ignoring the spillover effects of agglomeration on other neighborhoods. I estimate a relatively small elasticity of amenities on density of 1.5%, with 80% of the spillover decaying within 3 city blocks. I also document evidence that the dis-amenities associated with density are more than twice as concentrated as the positive spillover effects, and estimate that centralizing land-use regulation could increase the average size of re-zonings by 5.6 p.p. These results emphasize the role that diffuse benefits and concentrated costs of density play in constrained housing supply and community opposition to development.

Working Papers

“The SoHo Effect or Manufacturing Decline? Untangling Theories of Industrial Conversions”

“The Determinants of Land-Use Regulation: Homevoters or Heterogeneous Preferences for Density?”