Urban Economics and Urban Policy
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Urban Economics and Urban Policy

Challenging Conventional Policy Wisdom

Paul C. Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry G. Overman

In this bold, exciting and readable volume, Paul Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry Overman illustrate the insights that recent economic research brings to our understanding of cities, and the lessons for urban policy-making. The authors present new evidence on the fundamental importance of cities to economic wellbeing and to the enrichment of our lives. They also argue that many policies have been trying to push water uphill and have done little to achieve their stated aims; or, worse, have had unintended and counterproductive consequences.
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Chapter 6: Planning: reforms that might work and ones that won't

Paul C. Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry G. Overman


The authors of this book represent three generations. The oldest is 72 and bought his first house in 1972. The house cost £2,500. He now lives in a large house - though smaller than the one he lived in when raising his children - in an attractive part of central London with no mortgage. The increase in the price of his house(s) over 41 years is equal to about twice the total salary (at historic values) he has earned from all his academic employment. One of us is in the middle of their working life and has two young children. He and his family live in a not-so-large house in a pleasant outer area of London. To buy this house required him and his partner to take on a mortgage that was an uncomfortable multiplier of their (then) joint salaries. The youngest of us is an early career academic who lives in a flat in London's 'inner suburbs' with his partner. Their outstanding mortgage is a similarly uncomfortable multiplier of their joint incomes. Not all this inflation in house prices relative to incomes and prices is due to our system of land use planning. But the evidence suggests most of it is and it is both grossly inequitable and highly inefficient. It also means hiring skilled people to work in London is increasingly problematic especially if, like academics, their salary does not vary much with location.

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