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These 20 Cities Have the Strictest Zoning Laws for Builders

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These 20 Cities Have the Strictest Zoning Laws for Builders


December 26, 2019
Building Planning
By master1305- Adobe Stock

Being a builder can already be an uphill battle, but these 20 cities’ zoning laws make it even harder. Zoning laws can increase costs and lengthen the time it takes to complete a project. In some cities, up to three entities have to approve a project before it can break ground. Regulatory-heavy cities such as San Francisco were bound to make the list, but others such as The Office’s Scranton, Pennsylvania, may come as a surprise. 

Heavily-regulated land-use zoning has become the norm across the United States over the last decade — and there’s strong reason to believe that has driven housing costs higher in many cities.

But in some parts of the country, land-use zoning is particularly stringent.

A new working paper from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University examined the change in local zoning laws since 2006, based on survey data collected in 2006 and in 2018. Using that data, the researchers created an index that calculated where land-use regulations were the most onerous.

The San Francisco metropolitan area came in first in that ranking, followed by New York City and Providence, R.I. Overall, many of the cities that placed highly on the index are known for their costly housing markets, such as Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. (The ranking included metro areas where researchers recorded 10 or more responses from different communities located in those cities.)

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