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Three Essays In and Tests of Theoretical Urban Economics Open Access

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This dissertation consists of three essays on urban economics. The three essays are related to urban spatial structure change, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and housing redevelopment. Chapter 1 answers the question: Does the classic Standard Urban Model still describe the growth of cities? Chapter 2 derives the implications of telework on urban spatial structure, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Chapter 3 investigates the long run effects of minimum lot size zoning on neighborhood redevelopment.Chapter 1 identifies a new implication of the classic Standard Urban Model, the “unitary elasticity property (UEP)”, which is the sum of the elasticity of central density and the elasticity of land area with respect to population change is approximately equal to unity. When this implication of the SUM is tested, it fits US cities fairly well. Further analysis demonstrates that topographic barriers and age of housing stock are the key factors explaining deviation from the UEP.Chapter 2 develops a numerical urban simulation model with households that are able to telework to investigate the urban form, congestion, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission implications of telework. Simulation results suggest that by reducing transportation costs, telework causes sprawl, with associated longer commutes and consumption of larger homes, both of which increase energy consumption. Overall effects depend on who captures the gains from telework (workers versus firms), urban land use regulation such as height limits or greenbelts, and the fraction of workers participating in telework. The net effects of telework on energy use and GHG emissions are generally negligibleChapter 3 applies dynamic programming to investigate the long run effects of minimum lot size zoning on neighborhood redevelopment. With numerical simulation, comparative dynamic results show that minimum lot size zoning can delay initial land conversion and slow down demolition and housing redevelopment. Initially, minimum lot size zoning is not binding. However, as city grows, it becomes binding and can effectively distort housing supply. It can lower both floor area ratio and residential density, and reduce aggregate housing supply. Overall, minimum lot size zoning can stabilize the path of structure/land ratios, housing service levels, structure density, and housing prices. In addition, minimum lot size zoning provides more incentive for developer to maintain the building, slow structure deterioration, and raise the minimum level of housing services provided over the life cycle of development.

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