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Abstract:

Journal article
Institutional settings and urban sprawl: Evidence from Europe

December 2018
Paper No' :


Tags: decentralization; europe; housing supply; land use regulation; supply constraints; urban sprawl

This article explores the role of institutional settings in determining spatial variation in urban sprawl across Europe. We first synthesize the emerging literature that links land use policies and local fiscal incentives to urban sprawl. Next, we compile a panel dataset on various measures of urban sprawl for European countries using high-resolution satellite images. We document substantial variation in urban sprawl across countries. This variation remains roughly stable over the period of our analysis (1990–2012). Urban sprawl is particularly pronounced in emerging Central and Eastern Europe but is comparatively low in Northern European countries. Urban sprawl – especially outside functional urban areas – is strongly negatively associated with real house price growth, suggesting a trade-off between urban containment and housing affordability. Our main novel empirical findings are that decentralization and local political fragmentation are significantly positively associated with urban sprawl. Decentralized countries have a 25–30% higher sprawl index than centralized ones. This finding is consistent with the proposition that in decentralized countries fiscal incentives at local level may provide strong incentives to permit residential development at the outskirts of existing developments. © 2017