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It's Not Just Federal Regulations that Cost Americans

When you mention the regulatory state, most people tend to think of federal regulations. For example, see our June 12, 2015 Growls about the Competitive Enterprise Institute's 2015 edition of "10,000 Commandments" or the November 12, 2015 Growl about the regulatory state.

In a op-ed posted today at Investor's Business Daily (IBD) , Chuck Devore and Salim Furth point out that "some of the most consequential decisions — from a dollars-and-cents standpoint — are made in state legislatures and city halls across the country," going on to explain:

"Those who stand firm against Washington for free markets and mild regulation must also apply those principles at the local level.

"A new research report shows that just 12 policy mistakes at all levels of government add $546 billion a year in consumer costs.

"Fixing those mistakes would save the average household $4,440 a year. Most of the 12 policies examined are federal, but the two costliest are the province of state and local governments.

"Heavy restrictions on property rights impose the greatest costs on consumers.

"Rather than leave landowners the right to build, many municipalities severely restrict construction. Costly land use regulation takes many forms: Parking minimums, zoning laws, height restrictions, and bureaucratic delays. And all of these artificially inflate the cost of housing.

"These differences matter: Developers who work in the two largest states report that a project that would be approved within five months in Texas takes five years in California. (emphasis added)

"If a coastal metropolitan area like Miami or San Francisco adopted land use laws like those of the typical non-coastal area (Austin, Texas, or Dayton, Ohio, for examples), rent would fall 10% and home prices 20%.
That's enough to significantly increase the standard of living for low-income families in those cities and bring homeownership within reach of millions of Americans — without market-distorting government mandates or subsidies.

"As it is, it took the San Francisco Giants eight years (and two World Series wins) just to get permission to build a mixed-use urban development on land near their new stadium. And that was only after the California state legislature passed two bills specifically exempting the project from the state's arcane environmental regulations.

"When policymakers make it that arduous to build apartments, it's no wonder the rent's too damn high!"

After describing the problems of regulations at the state level, Devore and Furth conclude:

"America's ever-thickening web of federal and state regulations and mandates likely cost the economy more than federal and state personal income taxes and corporate taxes combined.

"Reversing a dozen costly policy mistakes would be a great start for a long-overdue house-cleaning."

The research report mentioned in the third paragraph is Salim Furth's Heritage Foundation "Backgrounder" entitled, "Costly Mistakes: How Bad Policies Raise the Cost of Living" (No. 3081, November 23, 2015).

In his research study, Furth estimates that "Americans pay about $209 billion a year extra for housing due to over-regulation of land use." He adds, "For the average household, the cost is $1,700 a year, but the cost is distributed very unequally. Rural families and those living in less-regulated cities are unharmed. Those in expensive metro areas are taken to the cleaners, frequently for over $5,000 per year."

The Arlington County Taxpayers Association (ACTA) were in the center of a four-year land-use battle (2001-2005) in Arlington County more than 10 years ago. They are detailed in three Growls:

Although the Arlington County Board did not take final action on lot coverage until after the November 2004 elections, the September 10 Growls was our last blog entry. For further news, we recommend a trip to Arlington County's Central Library to research the Arlington Sun Gazette.

Kudos to Chuck Devore and Salim Furth for their IBD op-ed, and to Salim Furth and the Heritage Foundation for publishing the study of how bad policy mistakes cost the American people, whether those bad policies occur at the federal, state or local level.

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