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Property Rights and Property Wrongs

As Oregon's "Big Look" task force resumes its job of re-evaluating the state's land use regulations, it might want to take a close look at

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As Oregon's "Big Look" task force resumes its job of re-evaluating the state's land use regulations, it might want to take a close look at a couple of new studies that seem to shoot holes in the accepted (well, accepted among conservatives) view that the state's land use regulations have depressed property values and made property owners into paupers.


The studies were funded by The Oregon Community Foundation through the Gray Family Fund. One of them, conducted by researchers with the Oregon State University Extension Service, compared land values in Oregon before and after the introduction of its land use regulations and values of Oregon land with those of comparable land in Washington. Some of the key findings:

  • "Land values have generally risen since the introduction of Oregon's land-use planning system in 1973.
  • "Since 1973, the rate of change in land values in Oregon has been about the same as for similar lands in Washington.
  • "Lands with the most stringent development limits have increased in value at about the same rate as lands without such restrictions.
  • "There is no evidence of slower rates of increase overall for the Oregon lands studied compared to the lands studied in Washington counties."

The other study, by the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute, looked at trends in Oregon land prices over the past 35 years and concluded that "claims that Oregon's land use program harmed property owners by reducing property values, and that Measure 37" - the "property rights" initiative approved by voters in 2004 and substantially modified by last year's Measure 49 - "would remedy this alleged unfairness, are unsupported by economic and empirical evidence. Oregon's land use program has not unfairly burdened property owners."

The foundation also sponsored a project by the Institute of Metropolitan Studies at Portland State University to build a searchable database of all claims filed under Measure 37. You can check it out here.

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