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Outside Sources / Does “upzoning”—allowing taller, denser housing to be built—actually work?

For most California housing experts, the solution to the state’s housing crisis is pretty intuitive: Build more housing. Study after study has indicated that too much demand and too little supply has led to the state’s exorbitant rents and sky-high home prices.

But what policies will actually induce more homes to be built? And once those homes are built, do things really play out in the real world as you would expect in an Econ 101 textbook?

A new and highly publicized study from a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology casts some doubt on whether “upzoning”—allowing taller, more dense building to built—actually results in more construction and lower housing prices. It’s been cited as a cautionary tale, but the study’s author now says proposed California legislation to allow upzoning avoids at least some of the policy pitfalls revealed in his research.

The study finds that a Chicago policy allowing more dense housing around rail stations in the early 2010s induced no new construction over a five-year period. At the same time, the city-wide ...

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