Oregon has the nation’s most restrictive land-use regulatory system. Every square inch of Oregon has been zoned by government planners, with the result that development of any type is prohibited on most private land. In addition, 60% of Oregon’s total land mass is owned by the government, so there are relatively few parts of the state where real estate markets can function effectively. The result is a government-enforced cartel of landowners who own buildable land. The consequence of any cartel is to drive up the price of the regulated good to above-market levels. The high cost of land in Oregon is one reason why the price of housing is relatively high in Oregon’s largest cities.

While it is often lauded by its proponents as a “model” for the nation, after 33 years no other state has chosen to emulate Oregon’s land-use program. Clearly the Oregon system is more of an aberration than a model, and needs to be drastically reformed to incorporate the benefits of property rights, incentives, and markets.

Ballot Measure 7 passed in 2000, which would have brought some relief, but this measure was overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court. A similar proposal was passed as Measure 37 in 2004, which resulted in roughly 7,500 claims filed for financial compensation (or waiver of regulations) due to the loss of property rights caused by zoning. That law was overturned by Ballot Measure 49, which was voted on in November 2007.

Cascade believes strongly in the virtues of free enterprise, which is based on the enforcement of property rights. This web page includes essays, commentaries and studies related to land-use planning, “smart growth,” and similar subjects.

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John A. Charles, Jr.
President and CEO