Expensive cities vs. expansive cities

Blame Geography for High Housing Prices?

New research discusses the way that zoning code and geography, in particular, geographic barriers like mountains, lakes, and coastlines interact to affect housing prices. While Eugene has fewer geographic features that affect our ability to expand, Oregon's land use commitment to preserving farm and forest land makes it harder to expand out... while it is not as immobile as a mountain, the Urban Growth Boundary system puts some of the same pressures on housing affordability in Eugene. The question before us is, given the interactions between these factors, is how to balance affordable housing, neighborhood options, and preserving farm land and the natural environment.

It’s become something of a mantra among urban economists: Increasingly unaffordable housing prices in cities like New York, London, and San Francisco are very often the consequence of onerous and out-of-date land use regulations. Whether it’s restrictions on the height of buildings or the density of development, these regulations effectively constrain the supply of housing.... But something much more enduring than zoning and land use is also contributing to the deepening housing affordability problems... part of the explanation lies in the geographic characteristics of cities and metros—mountains, lakes, coastlines, etc.—that make it all but impossible to expand and add more housing.
— Richard Florida, City Lab