From Traditional to Reformed: A Review of the Land Use Regulations in the Nation’s 50 largest Metropolitan Areas

Local land use regulations help define the character of cities, towns, counties, and entire regions. Zoning, comprehensive plans, infrastructure control, urban containment, building moratoriums, and permit caps can drive development outward, promote density, or something in between. They can also directly affect the composition of inhabitants by facilitating rental properties and low-income residents, especially when these regulations are coupled with programs to promote housing affordability.

This comprehensive survey of local land use regulations finds a wide variety of regulatory regimes in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. They range from exclusionary and restrictive to innovative and accommodating. These produce a variety of effects on metropolitan growth and density, and on the opportunities afforded to the residents that live there.