Traditional cities in the U.S. suffer from an older, less desirable housing stock. Redeveloping housing will be central to their revitalization and rejuvenation. Unfortunately, the very policies adopted to enhance the quality of life of neighborhoods – planning and zoning regulation – interfere with the spontaneous market forces capable of transforming the housing stock and allowing neighborhoods to become more competitive. Cleveland provides a case in point, losing more than half its population in less than 50 years. Cities should take a cue from Houston, one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, and think about ways to deregulate the housing market to accommodate changing housing preferences and land uses based on shifts in the economy and city demographics. By adopting market-driven regulatory process, Houston substantially reduces uncertainty and approval times for new infill development projects.
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.