Discussion Paper

Zoning on the Urban Fringe: Results from a New Approach to Modeling Land and Housing Markets

May 25, 2012 | Nicholas Magliocca, Virginia D. McConnell, Margaret A. Walls, Elena A. Safirova


This paper uses an economic agent-based model of land use in a hypothetical urban fringe community to examine the effects of large-lot zoning on land conversion, land prices, and the spatial configuration and density of new development. The model incorporates the actions of heterogeneous housing consumers, developers, and farmer/landowners who make economic decisions in land and housing markets. The model allows for population growth and simulates the evolution of land use patterns and prices over a 20-year time period. Zoning regulations in the form of minimum lot size restrictions imposed in an outlying area are shown to have effects that vary with the stringency of the regulations: 2-acre minimum lot sizes have little effect on the spatial patterns of development, but they do increase land and housing prices and result in higher incomes in the region; 5-acre minimum lot sizes push development toward the city center, leaving agricultural land in the zoned region undeveloped until quite late in the simulation period. While house prices are higher with 5-acre zoning, land prices in the zoned region fall, highlighting the countervailing influences of lot size restrictions on land prices. The new modeling approach allows for the tracking of the transitional dynamics of development, both over space and time as the urban area grows.