Land use regulation is a contentious issue in many communities, particularly those facing rapid urbanization. Proponents argue that land use planning protects farmland, forests, water quality, open space, and wildlife habitat and, at the same time, increases property value and human health. Conversely, uncontrolled development will destroy the natural environment and long–term economic growth. Critics of land use regulation call those fears overblown. They argue that urban development is an orderly market process that allocates land from agriculture to urban use, and that governments tend to over regulate because they rarely bear the costs of regulation. The stakes are high in this debate. Any policy measures that aim at curbing urban development will ultimately affect a key element of the American way of life, that is, the ability to consume a large amount of living space at affordable prices. Policymakers must resist the temptation to attribute all “irregular” land use patterns to market failures and impose stringent land use regulations that may hinder the function of market forces. They should try to identify the sources of market failures that cause "excessive development" and address problems at their roots. Land use regulation must strike a balance between private property rights and the public interest.


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