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Governments often place restrictions on building new houses. These regulations can limit the supply of houses in large cities, which may have implications for inequality and unemployment. There are not many robust estimates of the economic effects of housing regulation, but by one such estimate regulation costs $100bn/year in the US alone (Open Philanthropy Project 2016).

These economic benefits may not be significant in welfare terms, because they mostly accrue to people in high-income countries that are already relatively well-off. It is also important to acknowledge that in many cases, these regulations may improve the quality of housing and infrastructure, and may provide other benefits.

While it is unclear whether it will be effective to advocate for these restrictions to be lifted, or what the effects would be if they were, some have argued that this cause has potential. Another idea in this area that some have advocated for is a land value tax.

Further reading

80,000 Hours. 2016. Land use reform.

Open Philanthropy Project. 2016. Land use reform.