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A view of homes and apartments in San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Some California cities with stricter land-use regulations had lower growth in housing supply, according to a new paper out today from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The big picture: Cities across the country are wrestling with housing affordability. Minneapolis became the first to scrap single-family zoning, followed by Oregon with the first statewide ban. Meanwhile, Des Moines is moving in the opposite direction with zoning changes aimed at lower density.

What they did: Researchers created an index ranking the level of density restrictions in 265 California jurisdictions using land use survey data and public regulatory data.

What they found: More building restrictions — such as setbacks, parking minimums, minimum lot sizes and height limits — in some cases led to less building and, overall, a significant housing growth deficit. That prevents housing supply from meeting soaring demand, keeping prices high.

  • Dublin and Irvine had the most rapid housing growth in the state, and also low regulation levels. The cities have a lot of developable land to build more housing.
  • Expensive suburbs like Atherton, Bradbury and Los Altos Hills had the worst growth records and strictest land-use rules.
  • Big cities including San Francisco and San Jose are actually less regulated than most of their suburbs. But the housing debate is intense in those jobs-rich cities, often with fierce opposition to some types of new projects.
  • Among the big cities, Oakland and Long Beach built the least housing between 2012 and 2018.

What's happening: A number of jurisdictions are trapped between urban growth boundaries, where development is prohibited, and density restrictions, said Salim Furth, one of the report's authors.

"They're frozen in a state of half-suburbanization, a patchwork of farms and subdivision. In some places, you can't build out but you can build up, and in others you can't build up but you can build out. In a lot of California, you can't do either one."
— Salim Furth, Senior Research Fellow at Mercatus Center

Yes, but: Furth acknowledged the correlation between regulation and growth surplus is driven by extreme cases. Housing growth happens fastest in places with available land and high demand growth, not necessarily in the least-regulated places.

What to watch: California state Sen. Scott Wiener has proposed a bill that would preempt density restrictions near most transit stations and job clusters, instead allowing more multifamily zoning. But it faces intense opposition and a full vote was punted to 2020.

Meanwhile: The super-hot Bay Area market could be cooling just a bit. Housing prices across the Bay Area dipped in July compared to last year for almost every Bay Area county — including San Francisco, where the median price dropped 3 percentage points to $1.6 million, per CurbedSF.

  • Even though San Francisco has added multifamily housing, single-family housing supply has actually declined — so demand continues to swell, according to a trend report by Compass, a real estate group.

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The big picture: TikTok's algorithm makes it easy for flashback items to resurface and quickly go viral both on its platform and eventually on other social networks.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

8 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.