When it comes to the local economy, the local government wears more than one hat: it regulates land use and owns real property and has the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain. Each of these legal powers affects local real estate markets in ways that reach beyond local government's role as tax collector and provider of public goods and services. At different times and for different purposes, planners attempt to harness or to stimulate the forces of supply and demand in real estate markets. To succeed, they need a broad understanding of the ways in which real estate shapes the context of local decision making. By explaining the four major roles of the real estate market — as a barometer of the local economy, as the fiscal foundation for revenue generation, as a tool for public capital investment, and as a policy tool for planning ambitions — this article provides the framework for such an understanding.
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