Economic Geography, Jobs, and Regulations: The Value of Land and Housing

Berkeley Program for Housing and Urban Policy

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Date Published 2011
Primary Author Nils Kok, Paavo Monkkonen, John M. Quigley
Other Authors
Theme Housing Market & Urban Indicators
Country United States


Analyses of the determinants of land prices in urban areas typically base inferences on housing transactions which combine payments for land and long-lived improvements. These inferences, in turn, are based upon assumptions about the production function for housing and the appropriate aggregation of non-land inputs. In contrast, we investigate directly the determinants of urban land prices. We assemble more than 7,000 land transactions in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1990-2009 period, and we analyze the link between the physical access of sites, the topographical and demographic characteristics of their local environment, and the prices of vacant land on those sites. We investigate in detail the link between variations in the quality of public services and the value of developable land. Most importantly, our analysis documents the powerful link between variations in the regulatory environment within a metropolitan area and the prices commanded by raw land as an input to residential or commercial development. Finally, we relate these large variations in land prices to the prices paid by consumers for housing in the region.

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