Region Forward Blog

Global Fridays: Height limits land-use and affordability in Paris and D.C.

Nov 5, 2010


The height limit on D.C. buildings is a topic that arises every once in awhile generates some discussion and then subsides into the background. A New York Times article today summarizes many of the pros and cons usually raised during debates on the issue.

The height limit creates a feeling of livability that supertall cities may lack generates a higher population density than would otherwise exist in an American city of its size and preserves very picturesque views throughout parts of the city.

However as in Paris another relatively short city and one that D.C. was modeled after the height limit reduces the amount of space available for development. In cities of constant demand like the American and French capitals this results in higher housing costs pushing low-to-middle income residents outward in search of affordability. Also in both examples huge skyscraper districts have emerged on the edge of the city borders – La Defense in France and Rosslyn here – that push development outward also resulting in potential sprawl and the loss of potential tax revenue for the central city.

What are your thoughts on the merits and/or faults of height limits? Should they be maintained or lifted in whole or in part?

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