How would you block as many new homes as possible in existing cities?

If you wanted to design a system to approve as little densification as possible, what would you do?

First, prohibit all building unless specific permission is granted.

Second, create a lengthy procedure with extensive appeals and ultimate recourse to higher levels of government, to make sure that NIMBYs get as much chance to block as possible.

Third, make sure that questions about beauty are put at the back of the queue, so that NIMBYs are as worried about new development as possible.

Fourth, make sure you have blocked as many homes as possible for forty years, so that the price of land with permission is obscene and buyers are so stretched that they just want square footage, and can’t afford to care about aesthetics.

Fifth and most importantly, make sure that every approval makes the neighbours clearly worse off (unless they have exactly equivalent property that will benefit from the precedent), and that the approval doesn't really benefit anyone in particular except the landowner.

Does any of that sound familiar?


YIMBY book list

If you are looking for gift ideas or just what to read next, here are a few of our favourite books on how to fix the housing crisis:

Matthew Yglesias, The Rent is Too Damn High

Ryan Avent, The Gated City

Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City

Enrico Moretti, The New Geography of Jobs

Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action – be warned this is drier than the others.

Thanks to for giving us the idea!