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Sprawl is rarely the result of the free market

AC cites a WSJ article about Houston which perpetuates the misconception that Houston's ugly, sprawling development is somehow the result of the free market because they don't have strict use-based zoning like most of the country.

I've addressed this before in reference to housing density; and Christof in Houston has addressed the parking end of things. There's a lot more that goes into subsidizing sprawl than even those two, but those two are largely sufficient to produce the typical suburban land-use pattern even without the subsidized freeways and sundry other market interferences that cooperate to produce the supposed "free outcome" of suburban sprawl.

Sprawl isn't the natural result of free-market processes; it's what the market gets forced into providing when regulations require fairly large minimum lot sizes and a ton of parking and subsidize single occupant automobile travel over other modes. Otherwise, we would have seen a lot more modern-style sprawl before the advent of zoning codes, parking minimums, lot size requirements, and government-subsidized freeways - all of which occurred long after most households had access to at least one automobile.

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