Perspectives

Shining a Light on Land Use Regulation and Policies Across the U.S.

Michael LaCour-LittleOverly restrictive local land-use regulations limit the supply and increase the cost of housing. But, until recently, there were limited sources of comprehensive data on these regulations over time. We collaborated with the Urban Institute to launch a new public data source on land-use practices from data collected through the National Longitudinal Land Use Survey, or NLLUS (we call it "enloose"). Creating this public resource supports one of Fannie Mae's key strategic objectives—to help expand access to affordable housing across the country by identifying barriers to new supply.

Compiling data from the two prior surveys of local governments in 1994 and 2003 with the 2019 survey findings, the NLLUS can be used to describe land-use practices, and assess whether those practices have changed over time, allowing analysis of the relationship between land-use practices and housing supply and affordability.

The burden of land-use regulations

Low- and moderate-income households too often bear disproportionate costs incurred from overly restrictive land-use regulations. Lack of affordable housing across markets tends to limit economic growth since workers can't afford to move to areas where job opportunities are available. Within markets, restrictive land-use rules often result in unnecessarily long commutes to reach more affordable housing options.

One-stop-shop for land-use data

The NLLUS consolidates and simplifies access to both current and historical land-use data, enabling users to explore the data interactively and/or download findings into .csv formatted files that then can be used in a variety of programs. Because the dataset includes findings from two prior surveys, users can get a historical view of policy changes over time and trace the evolution of land-use regulation over the past quarter-century.

The survey includes coverage of a variety of land-use and zoning practices. The data could show how zoning may limit the development of manufactured housing, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and tiny homes, as well as limit construction of multifamily rental properties. Respondents were also asked about:

  • Growth management techniques
  • Impact fees
  • Residential zoning density

The findings collected through the survey and presented through the new dataset offer critical insights into the repercussions of restrictive land-use regulations. Our hope is that industry stakeholders will use the data to help break down barriers to affordable and sustainable housing opportunities. 

For more on this important initiative, register for the Urban Institute's October 30 webinar, "Unpacking the National Longitudinal Land Use Survey: Examining Land-Use Practices over 25 Years." Participants will learn about database content and coverage, as well as how to access and use the data in their own work.

Michael LaCour-Little
Director of Economics

October 29, 2019

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