Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Steve Oliner shows that it takes too damn long to build things in California

The set-up:

Recent research, which I conducted with Jonathan Millar of the Federal Reserve Board and Daniel Sichel of Wellesley College..... presents the first comprehensive estimates of planning times for commercial construction projects across the United States. We analyze roughly 82,000 projects nationwide for which planning was initiated  between 1999 and 2010, using data obtained from CBRE Econometric Advisors/Dodge Pipeline. The projects in the dataset include office buildings, retail stores, warehouses, and hotels. About 95 percent of these projects involve the construction of a new building; the remainder are additions or alterations to an existing building or conversions to a new use.
They find that average planning time in the US for a commercial building is 17 months.   But the longest planning times are in California and the Northeast.  Planning times in some California MSAs are about a year longer than the national average.  This makes California's economy less nimble than others.

This is not about whether or not there should be strong rules to protect the environment--California needs such rules.  This is about making rules straightforward and predictable, and allowing economic agents to behave quickly within the rules.  My hypothesis is that it is California's clumsy implementation of planning, more than anything else, that puts it at a needless disadvantage relative to Texas.

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