One of our most basic rights is our right to the fruits of our labors, which is essentially our property rights. Like all other rights, it ends where the equal rights of others begin. It’s also explicitly protected to some degree in the U. S. Constitution, which prohibits public officers from depriving people of their property except via due-process-of-law. Sadly, Provo’s city officers have been ignoring such principles to violate property rights in myriad ways.
One way is through zoning laws, which centrally-plan our land usage and development. Such laws have become so commonplace in America that we may not think to question them—but we should question them because they violate property rights. Studies have shown that zoning curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork, and so forth—and it provides no genuine benefits to society that can’t be provided at least as well through a genuinely-free market. Houston developed well with virtually no zoning laws, and Provo can (and should) do likewise. Sadly, Provo’s central planners want to not only keep zoning but enhance it so that it regulates not only interior usage but also exterior aesthetics.
Whether due to zoning or other reasons, Provo’s central planners are already prohibiting Provoan homeowners from housing more than 3 unrelated people, or from having multiple kitchen sinks, or owning more than so many animals, among other such infringements.
Until earlier this year, they were also prohibiting residents from renting out their homes to strangers for brief periods of time for extra money. Such peaceful non-criminal activities (via services like Airbnb) have been diverting business away from traditional hotel/motel chains, some of whom are responding by forging corrupt partnerships with politicians to forcibly stifle such competition. When Utah’s state legislature attempted to pass a law prohibiting city governments from suppressing free markets in this manner, Provo’s city government resisted in an attempt to maintain its economic command-and-control. Thankfully, this Utah state law passed, but this doesn’t mean that Provo’s city officers wouldn’t still be banning Airbnb if they could—or aren’t interested in violating our property rights in other ways. The best way to stop them is to vote them all into retirement while favoring better successors.
- Foundation for Economic Education: “The Primacy of Property Rights and the American Founding” (1998 Feb 01)
- Reason: “Land Use Without Zoning” (1974 Feb)
- Provo Daily Herald: “Provo Municipal Council mulling new ways of zoning” (2017 Feb 02)
- Libertas Institute: “Joe Stalin, a Second Kitchen Sink, and the Provo City Council” (2013 Aug 16)
- Code Publishing Company: Provo City 06.26
- Airbnb: About Us
- Watchdog: “Zoning meets property rights: Airbnb and VRBO outlawed in several Utah cities” (2015 Jun 01)
- Provo Daily Herald: “Provo leaders worried about state legislation that would allow short-term rentals” (2017 Feb 16)