You’re a businessman. You see a need for low-cost apartments. A property owner is happy to sell you the plot on which the complex may be built. The local senior housing center has a long waiting list, so your units would clearly be snapped up just as soon as available.
Everything’s a go, except . . . your project is against the law. A zoning law. Therefore, you are out of luck, as are the persons who would rent from you.
Such bans don’t proliferate in a vacuum, of course. Enforcement of zoning laws is often ardently demanded by the residents of the neighborhoods in which developers wish to build.
That’s what happened a few years back in Darien, Connecticut, where townsfolk were up in arms over a proposal to build condos for seniors. Residents felt entitled to forcibly prevent others from moving in. (It is dangerous to play with fire, though. Zoning laws can be used against insiders as well as outsiders. Some Darrien dwellers recently learned, for example, that the eaves of their homes were “too big” for regulators’ tastes.)
Another zone-ified town mentioned in John Ross’s review of Lisa Prevost’s new book Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate is Ossipee, New Hampshire, where workers sometimes live in tents to save on rent. The zoning code prohibits the building of new apartment buildings.
Observes Prevost: “The market is hungry for apartments, condominiums, and small homes, if only zoning restrictions would get out of the way.”
Of course, “the market” is simply shorthand for the needs of lots of people, and the freedom to meet those needs.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.