Environmental Regulations and Housing Costs

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Many communities across the nation still lack affordable housing. And many officials continue to claim that “affordable housing” is an oxymoron. Building inexpensively is impossible, they say, because there are too many regulations. Required environmental impact statements and habitat protection laws, they contend, drive up the costs of construction. But is this actually true? In a comprehensive study of the question, the authors of this eye-opening book separate fact from myth.
With admirable clarity, they describe the policy debate from its beginning, review the economic theory, trace the evolution of development regulation, and summarize the major research on the topic. In addition, they offer their own research, accompanied by a case study of two strikingly different Washington, D.C., suburbs. They also include results of focus groups conducted in Dallas, Denver, and Tucson. The authors find that environmental regulatory costs—as a share of total costs and processes—are about the same now as they were thirty years ago, even though there are far more regulations today. They find, too, that environmental regulations may actually create benefits that could improve the value of housing.
Although they conclude that regulations do not appear to drive up housing costs more now than in the past, they do offer recommendations of ways in which the processes associated with regulations—including review procedures—could be improved and could result in cost savings. Intended primarily for  professionals who are involved in, or impacted by, regulations—from public officials, planners, and engineers to housing developers and community activists—this book will provide useful insights and data to anyone who wants to know if (and how) American housing can actually be made “affordable.”

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Editorial Reviews

Member of Congress - Earl Blumenauer
"In this book, Arthur C. Nelson, John Randolph et al. provide reasoned analysis for decision-makers in the public and private sectors about the effect of environmental regulations on housing affordability. It is an invaluable contribution to those concerned with the future well-being of our families."
co-director, Institute for Urban Research, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania - Dr. Susan Wachter
"A must read for environmentalists and affordable housing providers alike."
president and CEO, Smart Growth America - Geoffrey Anderson
"The authors provide clear-eyed, expert consideration of the interactions between environmental regulation and housing costs, toppling long-held 'truths' as they go. Finally, policy-makers have more than rumor and innuendo to inform decision-making."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597265591
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 4/16/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur C. Nelson is Presidential Professor of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah.
John Randolph is a professor at Virginia Tech, where he directs the program in urban affairs and planning.
Joseph M. Schilling is a research professor at Virginia Tech.
Jonathan Logan is the design coordinator of the Rochester (New York) Regional Community Design Center.
James M. McElfish Jr. is director of the Sustainable Use of Land Program at the Environmental Law Institute.
Newport Partners, LLC is a consulting company based in Davidsonville, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Link between Environmental Regulation and Housing Costs
Chapter 2. Existing Research
Chapter 3. Excessive Costs and a Comparison of Historical Changes in Environmental Regulations and Approval Processes
Chapter 4. Case Study: Washington DC, Metropolitan Region
Chapter 5. Key Lessons from the Case Study
Chapter 6. A View from the West
Chapter 7. The Benefits of Environmental Regulations and a Summary of Key Findings
Chapter 8. Assessment, Lessons, and Future Directions
Appendix A:  Literature Review References
Appendix B: Chesapeake Bay Program
Appendix C: Outline of Environmental Regulations and Review Processes in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland
Appendix D: Special References for Cost Reduction and Best Development Practices
References and Selected Bibliography

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