The council of Maple County, concerned about the county’s becoming overdeveloped, is debating a proposed measure that would prevent the development of existing farmland in the county. But the council is also concerned that such a restriction, by limiting the supply of new housing, could lead to significant increases in the price of housing in the county. Proponents of the measure note that Chestnut County established a similar measure ten years ago, and its housing prices have increased only modestly since. However, opponents of the measure note that Pine County adopted restrictions on the development of new residential housing fifteen years ago, and its housing prices have since more than doubled. The council currently predicts that the proposed measure, if passed, will result in a significant increase in housing prices in Maple County.

Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.

Should the county of Maple County, located in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, prohibit new housing subdivisions from being developed on farmland farmed before 2000? In short, should Maple County prevent the development of additional housing on farmland that has been developed in the past?

The council appears to be concerned that, if developed, this farmland could pose a strain on local services, such as schools, roads, and emergency services. However, it is not clear how farmland being developed now would physically impact the services presently operated by the county. One must also consider the possibility that, if this new housing were to be developed, it could help the local economy. The farmers in the area currently sell their crops for an average price of about $2 per pound, but there are fewer and fewer buyers each year. The higher prices that farmers would receive for their crops if they could profit from selling them to developers of new homes would provide them with additional income. This income could offset the increased costs that the county would face if its residents were forced to move to other counties.

Furthermore, these higher prices would incentivize farmers to grow more crops, and this increased production would further enhance the local economy. This scenario would also improve the availability of the fruits and vegetables that residents require and replenish the farmland. It would not be necessary to rely on development to maintain the agricultural land.

Although proponents of the measure claim that the restrictions in place in Chestnut County led to a modest increase in housing prices, they do not consider this increase’s impact on the local population. The residents of Chestnut County did not simply have more money to spend; they also had a higher-than-average unemployment rate. This high unemployment rate was a direct result of the restrictive land development policies in place in the county. New housing developments allowed residents to move to more prosperous areas, where they found employment. The residents who were forced to leave Chestnut County now had fewer jobs than they had before. They were forced to apply for positions with lower wages, accepting a lower standard of living to remain employed. These workers also left their deposits for new homes, which lowered the amount of available housing in the area. By restricting housing development in Chestnut County, the council effectively limited the housing supply to the point that it drove up housing prices. In contrast, in Maple County, where additional housing was not restricted, new residents could move into new homes, which created extra jobs and increased the local economy. Thus, the council’s prediction that housing prices in Maple County would increase if the proposed restriction were adopted is questionable at best.

The council’s prediction of future housing prices in Maple County is all the more suspect when one considers that Pine County, which imposed restrictions on the development of residential housing fifteen years ago, has experienced even more impressive increases in housing prices. The limits in Pine County were similar to those in Chestnut County. The residents of Pine County, like the residents of Chestnut County, lost their jobs when the restrictions on housing development were put in place. However, the restrictive policies in Pine County did not prevent the development of new housing, and this development led to an increase in the population of Pine County. As a result, the townsmen of Pine County were able to experience the benefits of a growing population without coping with the problems of high unemployment and high housing prices. Pine County’s residents also benefited from the increase in demand for housing. Because the population of Pine County had grown, the need for housing was also increased, and new housing developments allowed Pine County to reap the benefits of increased housing sales. Thus, the council’s prediction that housing prices in Maple County would increase under the proposed restriction is also questionable.

The restrictive development policies in place in Chestnut County and Pine County led to increases in housing prices that their residents did not experience. These increases resulted from new housing developments, which created new jobs and increased the local economy. Suppose the council of Maple County wishes to prevent a similar rise in housing prices. In that case, it should encourage the development of new housing rather than imposing restrictions on existing housing development.