Paul Boudreaux


A dominant feature of American metropolitan areas is large lot zoning—the policy through which only house lots of a minimum size are permitted. This practice of "lotting large" contributes greatly to the sprawling nature of American suburbs. By restraining the supply of housing, large lot zoning laws please existing suburban homeowners. But they harm all other segments of the American populace, including the million new households who seek a home in the United States each year. This article explains how courts have been unwilling or unable to impose any meaningful restraints on local governments. It develops a simple economic model that shows that the constitutional law of regulatory takings provides an impetus for localities to choose large lot zoning over other methods of controlling housing density. Using these lessons, the article charts a path toward reform, through which local governments are encouraged to curtail their reliance on the outmoded practice of lotting large.

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