When it comes to national rankings, those that show Rhode Island badly on the wrong side abound. Ted Nesi highlights another one, on WPRI:
Rhode Island has some of the most restrictive regulations for land development in the country, which is likely raising the cost of housing in the state, according to a recent study.
The study by Vanessa Brown Calder, a researcher at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute think tank, ranked Rhode Island as the 3rd most restrictive state for zoning regulation and the 8th most restrictive for land-use regulation.
“These constraints on land development within cities and suburbs aim to achieve various safety, environmental, and aesthetic goals,” Calder wrote. “But the regulations have also tended to reduce the supply of housing, including multifamily and low-income housing. With reduced supply, many U.S. cities suffer from housing affordability problems.”
Progressives tend to look at housing affordability as a welfare issue, because they generally like the idea that government can tell people what they can, can’t, and must do with their property. The solution, for them, is to use government’s power to take people’s money in order to transfer it to those whom them zoning regulations lock out of housing. Naturally, this has the advantage of requiring everybody to go to government for benefits and permissions, as well as creating that money-power funnel I mentioned yesterday.
But immobilizing people in this way is not healthy, whether by making it difficult for them to find new homes or layering government forms on them whenever they do move. Beyond simply the principle of freedom is its practical value. Allowing people to move from place to place and adapt their homes (whether by price or by function) creates opportunities for them that benefit society as a whole, especially when it comes to the economy.