After reading yet another article about upzoning and property values, I had a fantasy: what if arguments about zoning took place in a trial? I imagine the following colloquy:
Counsel: Mr. NIMBY, isn’t it true that ever since zoning was invented in the 1920s, you have been arguing that zoning increases property values?
NIMBY: yes, your honor.
Counsel: so by that logic, eliminating zoning or making it less restrictive would lower property values?
Counsel: by contrast, today you are arguing that upzoning increases property values and causes gentrification?
NIMBY: yes, I am.
Counsel: but doesn’t upzoning make zoning less restrictive?
NIMBY: yes, that’s actually why I am against it.
Counsel: So to summarize, in the 20th century you were for zoning because it prevented property prices from falling, and now you are for it because you think it prevents prices from rising. I have just one question: were you lying then or are you lying now?
Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, NY. His scholarship can be found at http://works.bepress.com/lewyn , and he recently wrote the book "Government Intervention and Suburban Sprawl: The Case for Market Urbanism."
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