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Zoning and Property Rights: An Analysis of the American System of Land-use Regulation

Nelson, Robert H.

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ISBN 10: 0262140284 / ISBN 13: 9780262140287
Published by MIT Press
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Zoning and Property Rights: An Analysis of ...

Publisher: MIT Press

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

About this title


It's a deeply rooted American idea that an individual should be able to join with other persons of similar means and values to establish and maintain a preferred environment. Although not often recognized as such, zoning has major implications for the quality of physical environments, the distribution of income, transportation, housing, local taxation, and racial and class segregation. Zoning thus raises important issues concerning social inequalities and personal property rights.

Robert Nelson contends that in effect zoning has created collective property rights, which are now held by local government. His book analyzes the development of zoning, its aims, fictions surrounding it, and its successes and failures. It examines recent environment land-use regulations, their probable outcomes, and future prospects of the regulatory system. Only by bringing together the disparate elements—the socioeconomic consequences of the changes zoning has wrought on property rights; zoning history, the role of planning; political pressures on zoning administration and law—can one understand the full complexities of the zoning problem.

The author maintains that recent environmental restrictions on land use have led to an undesirable feudal trend. In detail he outlines suggestions for "major surgery." He recommends that private tenure institutions resembling condominium ownership be developed to replace neighborhood zoning. Community zoning should be abolished, and decision-making should be returned to the private sector. Formal public planning organizations and government as a whole should play only a minimal role in determining specific uses of land.

For all professionals in the field—urban economists, political scientists, planners, zoning lawyers, students of urban and environmental affairs—and even general readers who have a particular interest in the topic, Nelson's critique, with its bold advocacy of reconstruction, will provide a valuable stimulus for discussion.


"Nelson has some very clear ideas about the subject and builds the text around those ideas...The major topics covered concern zoning protection for neighborhood quality; the extension of zoning protection to the community; zoning and public land use; the unhappy consequences of prohibiting sale of zoning rights; zoning evolution in historical perspective; new regulatory protection of regional and state quality; new local growth controls; the basic principles for a new tenure system; and the struggle for high quality environments....

"In essence, Nelson's book proposes to abolish the American system of land use regulation. If you have just returned from a zoning hearing and your brilliant project has been denied by narrow-minded, ignorant, abusive and prejudiced zoning board members, this is the book to read for consolation. At least, there are a few writers who are attacking the various foundations upon which such boards sit."
AIA Journal

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