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November 29, 2010


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And then the question is, why the tighter (more conservative) zoning in the U.S. than in Canada?

Mike Lewyn says http://www.planetizen.com/node/43255 the difference is from lower crime and pricier fuel in Canada.

Pat Condon, who happens to live in BC, says http://www.planetizen.com/node/132 it's all about freeways.

Having lived much of my life in Canada, more of it in the USA and now living in Santiago, the difference I see between the USA and Canada is mostly that Canada has a more centralized government. This means that urban schools are the same as rural and suburban ones, reducing urban flight and disinvestment. Basically, there's no reason NOT to live in the city. It also means Canadians may be better at coming up with long-term regional plans and sticking to them, rather than making a bunch of ad-hoc decisions, neighborhood by neighborhood. While everyone wants to encourage democracy and public input, it has gone way overboard in the USA, to the point of ballot referendums on individual development projects in places like California and Colorado.

PS I bet you didn't know I was also a land-use guy. I used to work at the Congress for the New Urbanism, where they study this stuff a lot.

I did not know that!

Glaeser's work suggests that Condon is correct overall, but Lewyn has a point for the big coastal cities in the Northeast and California. Ironically, he's probably wrong about Atlanta, the city he uses as an example of zoning-gone-mad. Greater Washington (which Matt Yglesias likes to go on about) would be a much better one, I think.

I completely agree with you about the way community input has gone completely bonkers in most of the U.S. of A.

My knee jerk is that the way zoning works in the US does not make the developer pay the full cost of the new development. Instead, municipalities eager to increase the tax base subsidize cheap housing to get the additional housing. Because American property taxes are based on the value of the land + structure, not on the cost of the property to the municipality, it is in the interest of local governments to have a lot of big sprawling estates instead of small compact housing. The latter are just as expensive in schools, police, fire, water and sewer, while generate less taxes for the authorities that provide those services.

I know exactly where that pipe shop and pasta place are. A good friend of mine now lives in a converted factory 4 blocks away, speaking of land use (and 8 blocks away you can see NHL games, just to include some Canadian content).

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