Opposition to Development or Opposition to Developers? Survey Evidence from Los Angeles County on Attitudes towards New Housing

Published: 2018 | Paavo Monkkonen, Michael Manville | Urban Affairs


Opposition to new housing at higher densities is a pervasive problem in planning. Such opposition constrains the housing supply and undermines both affordability and sustainability in growing metropolitan areas. Relatively little research, however, examines the motives behind such opposition, and much of the research that does exist examines only opponents’ stated concerns, which may differ from their underlying reasons. We use a survey-framing experiment, administered to over 1,300 people in Los Angeles County, to measure the relative power of different arguments against new housing. We test the impact of common anti-housing arguments: about traffic congestion, neighborhood character, and strained local services. We also, however, introduce the idea that local residents might not like development because they do not like developers. We find strong evidence for this idea: opposition to new development increases by 20 percentage points when respondents see the argument that a developer is likely to earn a large profit from the building. This magnitude is double the increase in opposition associated with concerns about traffic congestion.