Working papers:

“Do Planning Regulations Raise the Cost or Quality of Housing?” (Job market paper)

Abstract: Planners implement zoning controls that limit building height and/or density. A substantial literature suggests that these regulations restrict supply and increase housing prices. Estimates of the marginal cost of building upward are below the asset price of the additional space. However, negative externalities of height and density could justify restrictions on private developers. Thus density in a laissez-faire city could be above the welfare maximizing level. Potential external costs of height and density are tested here and found to be substantial. However, increased building separation appears to mitigate the external cost of height. This implies that some level of FAR regulation is welfare-enhancing, and that gap between price and marginal construction cost overstates the social cost of zoning.

“Is Additive Independence a Valid Assumption When Testing the Effects of Gun Laws on Crime?”

The effects of gun control legislation on crime have been studied extensively. However, the literature has generally considered one law at a time under the implicit assumption that the relation between regulation and crime is additive independent. For example, regulations that target potential victims such as concealed carry weapon laws (CCW) and castle doctrine laws (CD) have been examined separately. Similarly, regulations that target potential offenders, including add-on gun laws (AOG) and universal background check requirements (UBC) have also been examined independently. The theoretical model developed here predicts that the effect of a given type of gun law on crime depends on the character of other gun laws. Using comparable data and estimation approach as studies of single regulations, the empirical results show that the effect of CCW on the robbery rate depends on CD, and the effect of AOG depends on UBC. This illustrates that the practice of relating individual regulation to crime may be problematic because the effects of regulations are not additive independent.

Work in progress:

“Using Land values to Identify the Optimal Level of Planning in Large Cities” (with Nathaniel Harris)

Abstract: Previous research has demonstrated empirically that indexes of urban planning restrictions increase housing prices. Many economists argue that this relation is caused by a decrease in the supply of housing compared to a laissez-faire city. Planners, on the other hand, argue that this relation is caused by an increase in the attractiveness of a city. This paper demonstrates theoretically that, in the presence of building density externalities, both are correct, and that the optimality of planning regulations cannot be determined by the relation between housing price and regulation. Consequently, this research explores the optimality of urban planning using aggregate land value rather than housing price. Aggregate land value provides a measure of the welfare effects of urban planning, because it internalizes externalities associated with both externalities present in laissez-faire development and gains or losses due to regulatory restrictions on that development.  Empirical tests indicate that the relation between past patterns of planning regulation and aggregate land rent is positive, implying that planning is a solution for problems of overbuilding under laissez-faire land development.

“Did Investors Price Housing Bubbles? A Tale of Two Markets” (With Daniel Broxterman and Tian Luan)