Local Control

Urban Land Use Regulation: Are Homevoters Overtaking the Growth Machine?

Published: 2014 | Vicki Been, Josiah Madar, Simon McDonnell | Journal of Empirical Legal Studies


The leading theory about urban land use regulation argues that city zoning officials are full partners in the business and real estate elite’s “growth machine.” Suburban land use officials, in contrast, are thought to cater to the interests of the majority of their electorate – “homevoters.” A unique database regarding over 200,000 lots that the New York City Planning Commission considered for rezoning between 2003 and 2009 allows us to test various hypotheses suggested by these competing theories of land use regulation. Our analysis reveals that homevoters are more powerful in urban politics than scholars, policymakers and judges have assumed.