New Article: Ellickson, Robert C., Zoning and the Cost of Housing: Evidence from Silicon Valley, Greater New Haven, and Greater Austin (October 18, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3472145
Municipal zoning, shockingly, may be the most consequential regulatory program in the United States. This article reports findings derived from an examination of provisions of zoning ordinances and zoning maps, materials that legal scholars have seldom closely appraised. The municipalities chosen for study lie in three metropolitan areas, the ones listed in the article’s title. Of the three, zoning in Greater Austin, one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States, is — to no one’s surprise — the most conducive to housing development. Austin suburbs have less large-lot zoning, more small-lot zoning, and fewer restrictions on the construction of multifamily housing. Housing prices in Silicon Valley, currently by far the highest in the United States, were only slightly above the national average in 1970. The extreme escalation of Silicon Valley housing prices has stemmed in significant part from its suburbs’ multifaceted efforts, after 1970, to limit further densification. Some towns in Greater New Haven, by contrast, adopted exclusionary policies as early as the 1930s. These towns’ enactments have distorted the region’s urban form and reduced its agglomeration efficiencies, but had little effect on housing prices.
The final parts of the article are more overtly normative. They present the case for increasing permitted residential densities in urban areas of the United States. To counter neighborhood NIMBYism, state legislatures should reward local governments that allow denser housing.
New Article: Peter Bergman et al., Creating Moves to Opportunity: Experimental Evidence on Barriers to Neighborhood Choice (Aug. 2019). The link also has slides and other resources related to this Opportunity Insights (Raj Chetty et al) paper.
New Article: James A. Allen, The Color of Algorithms: An Analysis and Proposed Research Agenda for Deterring Algorithmic Redlining, 46 Fordham Urb. L.J. 219 (2019). Abstract below:
Modern algorithms are capable of processing gargantuan amounts of data — with them, decision-making is faster and more efficient than ever. This massive amount of data, termed “big data,” is compiled from innumerable sources, and due to decades of discrimination, often leads algorithms to arrive at biased results that disadvantage people of color and people from low- and moderate income communities. Moreover, the decision-making procedures of modern algorithms are often structured by a homogenous group of people, who develop algorithms without transparency, auditing, or oversight.
This lack of accountability is particularly worrisome because algorithms are beginning to be deployed more rapidly and more expansively by public and private actors. Recent scholarship has raised concerns about how algorithms work to perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes in practically all areas, from casually searching the internet to criminal justice. This Article explores how algorithms in the housing arena operate, or have the potential to operate, in a manner that perpetuates previous eras of discrimination and segregation. By specifically concentrating on algorithms used in housing finance, marketing, and tenancy selection, this Article provides a research agenda for exploring whether housing stakeholders are creating an era of algorithmic redlining.
News Coverage: Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing, ProPublica & Connecticut Mirror, May 22, 2019.
New Article: Ron Hochbaum, Bathrooms as a Homeless Rights Issue, SSRN Mar. 2019. Abstract below:
Bathrooms are a bellwether of equality. Segregated bathrooms were at the center of the Civil Rights movement. Accessible bathrooms were at the heart of the Disability Rights movement. Now, gender-neutral bathrooms or bathrooms assigned by gender, rather than sex, are at the heart of the Transgender Rights movement.
This article is the first to examine the right to access bathrooms as it relates to the homeless community. The article explores the current paradox where cities, counties, and states provide few, if any, public bathrooms for the homeless community and the public at large, while criminalizing public urination and defecation.
To better understand this paradox, the article contains two original multi-jurisdictional surveys. The first reviews the prohibitions on public urination and defecation in the 10 municipalities with the most homeless individuals. The second explores the Freedom of Information Act and Public Record Act responses of those municipalities to requests for information regarding the public bathrooms they operate and potential barriers to use for homeless individuals (e.g. closing in the evenings or particular seasons, charging a fee for entry, being located in buildings requiring identification for entry, etc.).
The article contextualizes the paradox in relation to human dignity, public health, and the historical use of bathroom access as an exercise of power. It contends that the current scheme denies homeless individuals a basic sense of dignity, while undermining the health and safety justification for prohibitions on public urination and defecation by failing to operate public restrooms. The article further argues that government actors use bathrooms to marginalize the homeless community in the same way that they have used them to marginalize women, people of color, individuals with disabilities, and transgender individuals. In exploring this use of power, the article argues that prohibitions on public urination and defecation are part of a larger trend of criminalizing homelessness and the evolution of segregation.
Finally, the article evaluates potential solutions to the paradox. The solutions reviewed include increasing the availability and accessibility of public restrooms, leveraging private industry, and reforming or challenging the law. The article concludes that any long-term solution to the problem requires an examination of the paradox through the lens of the homeless community.
New Article: Indraneel Chakraborty, et. al, Returns to Community Lending, available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3353786. Abstract below:
For forty years, at a large scale, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has encouraged U.S. banks to lend to lower income neighborhoods. We estimate costs and benefits of providing incentives to privately-owned banks to reduce poverty. Regarding costs, to comply with CRA, rather than lend more overall, banks perfectly substitute away from small business lending to other income groups. Regarding benefits, 0.5% of the population is lifted out of poverty per year through the CRA small-business lending channel. The incidence of the act is on smaller banks who lend more and face higher loan losses. Large banks show no effects.
News Coverage of Poverty: Kelsey Piper, India’s poor don’t want money — they want health care, Vox.com, Apr. 12, 2019.