Today’s Seattle Timesleads off with a shocking—and implausible—article about a study purporting to show that land-use regulations have added $200,000 to Seattle’s housing prices. Many of the claims just don’t seem to pass the straight-face test, and I’m crunching the numbers now to show why. I’ll post the results later today. But before then, I just have to blow off some steam about the level of journalism here. It’s lousy.
First, the entire article appears to be an excuse to beat up on the Growth Management Act, which is a weird slice of regulation to pick on ( but more on that later). In any case, after repeating the study’s findings, the reporter interviews an economist from from the Washington Research Council. He agrees! Then interviews an officer from the Master Builders Association. He agrees too! And then a rep from the Dwelling Company, a development firm, who also agrees! Super!
Unfortunately, the reporter neglects to mention that two of those groups might have a direct financial stake in criticizing growth management. The reporter also characterizes the Washington Research Council as “nonpartisan”—which is fair enough, they technically are—but omits to mention their distinct right-leaning and anti-regulation slant.
So, after beating up on the growth management act for 1,255 words, how about a token perspective from Futurewise, Sightline, an affordable housing group, the growth management folks, the city, or the county? How about referencing some past research—there are dozens of studies to choose from—such as this well-respected study (pdf) from the Brookings Institute, showing very little connection between growth regulation and housing prices? Or—and I’m really going out on a limb here—how about interviewing an independent expert on housing prices and trends? Crazy, I know, but I’m a dreamer.
In fact, there is not a single alternative viewpoint represented in the entire article. That’s a shame because there are some very suspicious claims. If you’d like to see some skeptical analysis, check back here later and I’ll have it posted.