Hankinson, Michael: Co-opting Frames or: How to Stop a Housing Development

(PDF) Since 1970, the dispersion of housing prices in the US has not only increased, but increased disproportionately at the top end. 

These top-end cities host the greatest potential economic, educational, and health outcomes for their citizens. Consequently, their rapid rent inflation not only burdens their citizens but hinders the socio-economic mobility of those priced-out. This divergence across cities stems from variation in the elasticity of housing supply with regulations limiting the density of new development. In this paper, I measure the effect of local political ideology on building regulations with the hypothesis that more liberal cities pass stricter development constraints. The mechanism is the ability of interest groups to expand the scope of development conflicts from the neighborhood- to the city-level via an infrastructure of liberal ideology. When organizations frame neighborhood conflicts as larger debates of social justice or environmental protection, projects are more likely to be vetoed and citywide constraints adopted, hindering supply. This paper extends beyond urban development, as the mechanism details how interest groups leverage national ideological frameworks to redefine non-ideological local conflicts.