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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Paul A Waddell
PB AF 561
Seattle Campus

Urban Economics and Public Policy

Examines the rationale for and consequences of public intervention in urban land, housing, and transportation markets through land use regulations such as zoning and urban growth boundaries, infrastructure investments, and fiscal policies to manage urban development and traffic. Prerequisite: PB AF 516 or equivalent. Offered: jointly with URBDP 561.

Class description

Should local governments intervene aggressively in local real estate markets to limit urban sprawl and increase density? Should traffic congestion be addressed through building new highway capacity, rail transit, or pricing for use of congested facilities? Should housing affordability problems be addressed through subsidies to renters, to developers, or through rent control? Should community development efforts focus on people or place-based strategies? These are some of the current controversies in urban planning and policy that this course will seek to explore through the lens of urban economics. The dynamics of urban and regional development result from the interaction of the markets for real estate, labor, and transportation within metropolitan regions. Changing demands of households and businesses for built space within increasingly dispersed and multi-nucleated regions; the activity of land developers converting raw land and redeveloping older structures; and the infrastructure, regulatory, and fiscal choices of local governments combine to shape the ongoing evolution of urban areas. The problems of rapid urban growth, urban sprawl, spatial mismatch of jobs and residential locations of low-income workers, traffic congestion, affordable housing, homelessness and poverty concentration are some of the byproducts of the dynamics of metropolitan markets for real estate, labor, and transportation. This course provides an introduction to urban economics within a context of public policy and planning. It is balanced between theory and application and is targeted to students interested in better understanding the rationale for and effects of urban policy and planning. The first half of the course provides a basic understanding of the operation of the housing market at the neighborhood scale, and issues of neighborhood decline and revitalization. The second half of the course focuses on metropolitan housing and land markets and issues that arise in growth management. While the treatment of the material in the course will not principally be mathematical, familiarity with introductory microeconomics is required. Considerable use is made in the readings and in material presented in class of empirical research using methods such as multiple regression and multi-nomial logit. Facility with these methods is not required for the course, but an ability to interpret results will be valuable in understanding empirical research in urban economics and policy.

Student learning goals

Develop a theoretical foundation in the economics of urban land and housing markets;

Develop familiarity with empirical research in urban economics;

Develop an understanding of the motivation for public intervention in housing markets, and the Urban Economics Page 1 of 8 (http://faculty.washington.edu/pwaddell/Urban_Economics/Syllabus.htm) instruments used by local governments to do so;

Apply theory to selected contemporary urban problems;

Apply theory to current controversies in urban planning and policy.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Blake N Cooper
Date: 10/14/2008