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Table of contents
Two recent Harvard University studies found that land use regulation reduces housing affordability in the Greater Boston Area Glaeser and Ward ; Glaeser and Gyourko Cho, Wu and Boggess analyzed the causes and consequences of land use regulations across counties in five western states and found that land use regulation increased average housing prices between 1. Land use control must strike a balance between private property rights and the public interest.
Oregon ballot measures 37 and 49 highlight the difficulty and controversy of the balancing act. In an attempt to protect private property rights from regulatory taking, Oregon voters passed Measure 37 in Measure 37 provides that the government must compensate the owner of private real property when a land use regulation reduces its "fair market value".
In lieu of compensation, the government may choose to "remove, modify or not apply" the regulation. Measure 37 was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court, but was upheld by the Oregon State Supreme Court. In an effort to reverse or modify Measure 37, Oregon voters approved Measure 49 on Nov. In sum, land use change provides many economic and social benefits, but comes at a substantial economic cost to society. Land conservation is a critical element in achieving long—term economic growth and sustainable development. Land use policy, however, must strike a balance between private property rights and the public interest.
Land—use change is arguably the most pervasive socioeconomic force driving changes and degradation of ecosystems. Such disturbance of the land affects important ecosystem processes and services, which can have wide—ranging and long—term consequences Table 2. Farmland provides open space and valuable habitat for many wildlife species. However, intensive agriculture has potentially severe ecosystem consequences. For example, it has long been recognized that agricultural land use and practices can cause water pollution and the effect is influenced by government policies.
Runoff from agricultural lands is a leading source of water pollution both in inland and coastal waters. Conversions of wetlands to crop production and irrigation water diversions have brought many wildlife species to the verge of extinction. Forests provide many ecosystem services. They support biodiversity, providing critical habitat for wildlife, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, intercept precipitation, slow down surface runoff, and reduce soil erosion and flooding.
These important ecosystem services will be reduced or destroyed when forests are converted to agriculture or urban development. Such disturbance can change the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the principal heat—trapping gas, as well as affect local, regional, and global climate by changing the energy balance on Earth's surface Marland et al. Urban development has been linked to many environmental problems, including air pollution, water pollution, and loss of wildlife habitat. Urban runoff often contains nutrients, sediment and toxic contaminants, and can cause not only water pollution but also large variation in stream flow and temperatures.
Land Use Changes - Oregon Conservation Strategy
Urban development and intensive agriculture in coastal areas and further inland are a major threat to the health, productivity, and biodiversity of the marine environment throughout the world. Land use provides many economic and social benefits, but often comes at a substantial cost to the environment. Although most economic costs are figured into land use decisions, most environmental externalities are not.
For example, developers may not bear all the environmental and infrastructural costs generated by their projects. Farmland produces both agricultural commodities and open space. Although farmers are paid for the commodities they produce, they may not be compensated for the open space they provide. Thus, market prices of farmlands may be below their social values. Private trusts and non profit organizations play an important role in land conservation. The Nature Conservancy has protected more than million acres of ecologically important lands. However, some have questioned whether private conservation efforts crowd out or complement public efforts for land conservation.
Land use regulation can take many different forms. The traditional command and control approach often involves zoning, density regulation, and other direct land use controls.
Land Use Changes
Although these policies can be quite effective as regulatory tools, they could lead to substantial social welfare loss in the form of higher housing prices, smaller houses, and inefficient land use patterns Cheshire and Sheppard ; Walsh Incentive—based policies are increasingly used to influence private land use decisions. These policies may include development impact fees, purchases of development rights PDRs , preferential property taxation, and direct conservation payments.
Environmental Protection Agency The incentive—based approach has many advantages over direct land use control. For example, a development impact fee can be used to achieve both the optimal pace and pattern of land development, a shortcoming of zoning regulations Wu and Irwin, However, zoning may be preferred from a practical viewpoint as well as in cases where the environmental costs of land conversion are highly uncertain. In situations where the natural and human systems interact in complex ways, thresholds and nonlinear dynamics are likely to exist, and the environmental costs could be very high and sensitive to additional development.
In such cases, zoning may be preferred. The policy challenge, however, is to know when the system is in the neighborhood of such thresholds. While federal spending on land—related conservation programs has increased substantially over the last twenty five years, the federal government has yet to articulate a clear vision of how land use should be managed Daniels, Most land use controls are in the hands of local governments in the United States, and the level of control varies considerably across counties and municipalities. Some local governments have few land use controls, while others are actively involved in land use planning and regulation.
Land use regulation is a contentious issue in many communities, particularly those facing rapid urbanization. Proponents argue that land use planning protects farmland, forests, water quality, open space, and wildlife habitat and, at the same time, increases property value and human health.
Conversely, uncontrolled development will destroy the natural environment and long—term economic growth.
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Critics of land use regulation call those fears overblown. They argue that urban development is an orderly market process that allocates land from agriculture to urban use, and that governments tend to over regulate because they rarely bear the costs of regulation. The stakes are high in this debate. Any policy measures that aim at curbing urban development will ultimately affect a key element of the American way of life, that is, the ability to consume a large amount of living space at affordable prices.
They should try to identify the sources of market failures that cause "excessive development" and address problems at their roots. Land use regulation must strike a balance between private property rights and the public interest. Cheshire, P. The welfare economics of land use planning. Journal of Urban Economics, 52 , — Cho, Seong—Hoon, Wu, J. Measuring interactions among urbanization, land use regulations, and public finance.
American Journal of Agricultural Economics 85, — Czech, B. Economic associations among causes of species endangerment in the United States, BioScience 50 , — Daniels, T. When city and country collide. Washington, DC: Island Press. Glaeser, E. The causes and consequences of land use regulation: evidence from greater Boston.
The impact of zoning on housing affordability. Lisansky, J. Farming in an urbanizing environment: agricultural land use conflicts and rights to farm, Human Organization, 45 , — Larson, J. Agricultural adaptation to urbanization in southeastern Pennsylvania.
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Agricultural and Resource Economics Review , 30 , 32— Lockeretz, W. Urban influences on the amount and structure of agriculture in the North—Eastern United States. Landscape and Urban Planning,16 , — Lopez, R. The effects of suburbanization on agriculture. American Journal of Agricultural Economics,70 , — Lubowski, R.
Major uses of land in the United States, Economic Information Bulletin No. Lynch, L. Is there evidence of a critical mass in the mid—Atlantic agricultural sector between and ? For more information, contact Abby Shannon at More advanced administrative capability and knowledge of real estate transactions are required to implement land acquisitions.
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Community maintenance of the acquired lands is required. Land acquisition policies may be included in comprehensive plans or other community plans that may be required to be adopted. Dependent on the lands being acquired. Costs can sometimes be quite substantial. Skip to main content. How it Works. Where It's Been Done. Advantages and Key Talking Points. Promoting natural resource protection as a hazard mitigation technique.
Providing locations for citizens to recreate. Protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Achieving the above objectives through a permanent solution versus relying on land development policies or regulations which may be changed over time. Preventing property damage and loss of life, thereby reducing public and private resources expended on disaster recovery.
Preserving habitat for threatened species. Removing land from development pressure that might otherwise be highly desirable to developers. Likely the greatest challenge for communities in implementing land acquisitions is the amount of money it takes to purchase sensitive lands. Land acquisition also requires resolving complicated coordination issues. Communities need a higher level of technical expertise to administer land acquisitions.
Any land a jurisdiction acquires may be subject to easements that dictate how the land is to be maintained and used.
If the land is located in a hazard area, staff must consider whether the easement requirements allow specific mitigation activity on the land. Finally, as previously mentioned, land acquisitions requires political will, community support, and financial capital, which may be challenging to obtain. Hazards Addressed. Soil Hazards. Key Facts. Additional Resources. Back to top. Get Involved About Submit a case study!