Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do Regulations Make Cities Un-livable?

Matt Yglesias has been making some really good points recently about how local government regulations and ordinances can often lead to less-livable cities.

On July 20, he discussed liquor licensing and zoning:

And movie theaters aside DC would, in general, have more bars that feature nice outdoor areas (a) easier to get a license to open a bar, and (b) easier to get a license to establish outdoor tables.

A relatively strict licensing regime keeps the number of drinking establishments relatively low. That reduces one's set of options. But beyond that, it makes for a less competitive environment with higher prices and less effort going into making an establishment appealing. Laxer licensing regimes and more liberal zoning policies about where you can open retail would produce lower prices and more options.

On July 19, he talked about affordable housing:

To me one of the oddest aspects of endless discussions about affordable housing is how little emphasis there is on the fact that many areas have straightforward rules in place that just make it illegal for housing to be affordable. For example, in Arlington County Virginia you might own a nice big house. And maybe you're an empty nester who doesn't need as much space in the home anymore now that the kids are out of the house. So maybe you want to modify the structure somewhat to create a so-called "accessory dwelling" in the garage or the basement that you can rent out to people looking for a cheap place to live.

Well, you can't. It's illegal.

And back in April he covered government-subsidized/mandated parking here:

But that's what you should have -- as much parking as the market will bear. Not government-mandated parking, and not government-provided free or discount parking. Let people build garages and if it's more economical to provide less parking, let there be less parking.

and here:

When you mandate vast acres of un-priced or underpriced parking, that leads to lots of driving. But the space used up by all that parking is still a real resource -- nothing comes "for free." When you don't make those mandates, the world doesn't end and people don't just spend eternity driving in circles looking for spaces. Instead, a combination of market-priced parking and alternatives to driving can meet people's needs.

Yglesias is regarded as a modern (as opposed to classical) liberal, but I think he's much more libertarian than he gets credit for.

Image is Camille Pissarro's Boulevard Montmartre, morning, cloudy weather, 1897, from here.

No comments: