Zoning’s Impact on Segregation

Jan 22, 2019

by David Levine, President/CEO

A recent Slate magazine article highlights how restrictive zoning policies limit the construction of a greater number of affordable housing units.

Given our current affordable housing crisis, the spotlight is now shining on these restrictive zoning policies. Municipalities are looking at these policies and their impact on the housing market.

In particular, at the end of last year, Minneapolis was the first major metropolitan center in the country to allow three-family homes (“triplexes”) in single-family zoned neighborhoods. Plus, Minneapolis further changed zoning regulations to reduce the required parking minimums for new construction and allow for greater housing density around transit centers.

As the article notes, Minneapolis implemented an end to single-family home zoning, which is “a policy that has done as much as any to entrench segregation, high housing costs, and sprawl as the American urban paradigm over the past century.”

In his book The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein noted many of the same consequences of local zoning policies. In effect, throughout our history, some of these restrictive zoning policies have elevated the costs of housing even higher.

Housing became unaffordable to many low-income households, many of them minorities. Too many neighborhoods became segregated along racial lines for reasons of housing costs.

Many are wondering to what degree these policies add to the crisis. The policies only seem to be making matters worse.