Sprawl Revisited

| Fri Mar. 19, 2010 2:45 PM EDT

Matt Yglesias responds to yesterday's post about sprawl:

It’s true that the problem of overly restrictive land-use rules is in large part a problem of voter-preference. But it’s not a problem of voter-preference for sprawl per se. It’s a general problem of homeowner eagerness to exclude outsiders.

I know it's wildly unfair to do this, but I didn't get much sleep last night and my brain isn't working. So I'll just say that I think he's wrong. Or, to be a little more precise, I think he's mostly wrong. Sure, exclusion is part of the dynamic here, but by far the bigger part of it is that lots and lots of people actively like living in non-dense developments. Seriously: they really do. It's not a trick. So they vote with their feet and move to the suburbs and then vote with their ballots to keep big-city living at bay. Given an ideal world, of course, they'd love to have a nice 3,000 square foot house with a big yard right in the middle of Manhattan, but one way or another, they want that house.

Obviously not everyone likes living this way, but an awful lot of people do. You can say they like a big house with a big yard, or you can say they like sprawl. It's pretty much the same thing.

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