One can have real debates about the wisdom of driving up housing prices. If you’re trying to get started in the state, high housing prices are a huge burden. On the other hand, if you own property in Rhode Island, making property more scarce should drive up its value… at least until the inability of people to move around easily strangles the economy even more and reduces the reasons for living here in the first place.
That said, it’s worth pointing out that this sort of thing certainly plays a role:
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced Friday that 17 projects will receive matching grants to protect 889 acres of open space and farmland. The funding stems from the Green Economy Bond program, which was voters passed in 2016.
The initiative aims to invest $35 million to preserve open space, improve recreational facilities and clean up land and waterways.
So, taxpayers committed to spending money (with interest) on initiatives that will reduce the amount of buildable land, leaving hundreds of acres that do little for anybody who doesn’t have a lot of free time. Sure, it sounds like a nice thing to do, but it would be less of a concern if we could be confident that people understood the economics involved. The value of land is mainly helpful when one makes the decision to sell (and buy in a less-inflated market elsewhere); in the meantime, it primarily means higher property tax bills and pressure for more debt and state-level taxes to subsidize housing for those who can’t afford it.
One thing we can say for Rhode Island government: It’s great at creating tax traps that drag the economy down in ways that aren’t easily traceable back to them, while they buy votes from special interests.