Friday, July 06, 2007

Want fries with that McMansion? 

If Boulder County, Colorado gets its way, you'll need to purchase land offsets for your large home.
Under the plan, people would only be able to build bigger homes if they agreed to buy development rights that would preserve agricultural or rural land elsewhere in the county � something that could cost a homeowner hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Home sizes in unincorporated Boulder County have grown nearly 20% since 2004.

From whom would they buy the agricultural land? Those people get a huge benefit. And putting that other land aside protects the value of houses already built. It hurts those who would like to move to Boulder County but now face artificial scarcity. Thomas Sowell observes from another context:
One of the rationales for such land use restrictions is the "preservation" of agricultural land. But nothing is easier than to dream up a rationale to put a fig leaf on naked self-interest. Far from being in danger of losing our food supply, we have had chronic agricultural surpluses for more than half a century.

Another rationale for laws restricting land use is that "open space" is a good thing, that it prevents "overcrowding" for example. But preventing people from building homes in one place only makes the crowding greater in other places. This is just another fig leaf for the self-interest of those who want other people to be forced to live somewhere else.

h/t: Freakonomics blog