We are delighted to announce that Asad Khan has joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Real Estate as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Khan recently received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During his time there, he was awarded the Robert E. Demarest Memorial Teaching Award; and was awarded the Best Paper Award from the OSU Fisher College of Business Real Estate Ph.D. Conference, and received several fellowships.
“We are fortunate to have Asad in residence with us for the next one to two years,” said Department Chair Tim Riddiough. “His practical and important research agenda looking at the microstructure of urban regulation, politics and economics is exciting, and nicely complements existing department expertise. Asad is also teaching the urban economics course, which is great for him and for us. We are very much looking forward to seeing how his work evolves, as well as interacting and collaborating with him during his tenure with us.”
In the interview below, you can learn more about Khan’s research interests and background, and what he is looking forward to during his time at UW-Madison.
What are your research interests?
My main research interest is about the causes and consequences of land-use regulation, namely zoning. We know that a thicket of local regulations has been contributing to housing costs nationwide, but there’s been a struggle to find policy solutions that balance the concerns different constituencies in a community may have. So my work is focused on better understanding the local effects of new development and considering political reforms that can incentivize more and better development.
A major theme of my research is thinking about how the choices one neighborhood makes on how to regulate housing and commercial development affects others. So, for example, my dissertation analyzed proposed political changes in Chicago—limits on Aldermanic power—that would limit local neighborhood control of zoning, to consider what effects that would have on development in the city as a whole.
Another current in my research relates to the phenomenon of industrial change in urban areas. The most obvious example is the trend of reusing industrial properties for residential and commercial use, but there’s been a more general reallocation of industrial users away from dense urban areas. It’s important for planners and economists to understand the consequences of these changes since “clusters” can rapidly unravel and flip from one use to another, which has implications for the city and region as a whole.
Is there a topic within the field that most excites you?
I’ve always been really interested in the topic of knowledge spillovers in cities. We know in an abstract sense that cities are more productive because people connect and share information more easily. But how does the urban environment actually promote that process?
There’s increasing attention and work on actually understanding the nature of these spillovers so we can better design buildings and cities—especially given recent developments with COVID. How are remote workers sharing information, and what implications does that have for commercial real estate in the short and long run? And what does that mean for housing?
What started your initial interest in real estate?
It began purely as a hobby. For years I would visit construction sites, follow the development approval process, and study architecture. Naturally I had a lot of questions: why were some projects approved and others rejected; why did different neighborhoods and areas develop so differently; and on the role of government in the process.
My original field of specialization during my PhD was Industrial Organization (IO), which is the field that emphasizes concepts like market power, strategic behavior, and regulation. Though real estate is an industry that has not traditionally been studied through this lens, I realized it fit well: a developer’s actions can and do affect local rents (i.e. they have market power), and regulation plays an important role in the process from start to finish. My research since has been a synthesis of the two fields.
What are you looking forward to in terms of collaborating with the UW Real Estate faculty?
The diversity of perspectives is really exciting. What’s great about real estate research is that it brings together many different fields together. My training focused on more abstract economic modeling and analysis methods. So I’m particularly interested in collaborating with those who have strengths in real estate finance and those who are more familiar with the details of the development process.
What are you looking forward to experiencing in Madison and at UW-Madison?
I’ve never been on a frozen lake before, so I can’t wait for the winter. I’m also looking forward to just exploring the city and the state more, especially the trails and the food!
Do you have any hobbies or interests that are outside your research?
Under normal circumstances my biggest interest is traveling and seeing new cities and places. But lately, I’ve been focused on visiting State and National Parks, including a number of them this past summer. I lived briefly in the Southwest before grad school and that really sparked my interest in the outdoors.