Housing Policy Preemption for Red States

While statewide efforts to loosen zoning restrictions have made news in (mostly) blue states like California and Oregon, (mostly) red states like Florida have been preventing local governments from passing their own housing policies.

2 minute read

July 26, 2019, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Texas Capitol Building

The Texas State Legislature has been very effective at blocking progressive affordable housing policies on the local level. | RoschetzkyProductions / Shutterstock

Sophie Kasakove reports on the flip side of the state preemption coin—red states blocking local government from approving new housing policies.

California and Oregon have made national news for several years with their efforts to upzone around transit stations and end single-family zoning, respectively. California still hasn't approved statewide legislation, after both SB 827 and SB 50 failed. Oregon, however, succeeded in approving House Bill 2001. Oregon also implemented statewide rent control.

Less well known, however, is the fate of an upzoning and inclusionary zoning ordinance approved in Miami in December 2018. "At the end of June, Florida's governor approved a law banning municipalities from passing mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinances, sending Miami's city councilors back to the drawing board," according to Kasakove.

That's just the latest example of states shutting down the ability of local governments to approve affordable housing toolkits, writes Kasakove. "In total, at least 35 states currently enforce some limitation on cities' ability to protect or create affordable housing, whether by preventing them from enacting rent control and anti-discrimination measures, mandating inclusionary zoning, regulating short-term rentals, or some combination of these measures."

In fact, Republican-controlled state legislatures have been very effective in approving preemption laws on a number of subjects, not just housing development: "In the past decade, especially following the Republican Party's 2010 electoral takeover of state houses, preemption legislation has become an increasingly common method for conservatives to secure control over a range of issues of concern, from minimum wage laws to plastic bag bans."

Back to housing policy, as preemption in conservative states has expanded beyond its roots in the anti-rent control politics of the 1970s. "As of 2017, at least 11 states had adopted laws that prevent localities from enacting mandatory inclusionary zoning or limit their ability to develop voluntary inclusionary zoning policies. Last year, Wisconsin joined the list and Tennessee made its ban even more stringent; similar legislation was under consideration in Hawaii and Louisiana, where it has so far stalled."

States are also preempting cites on regulations of short-term rentals. Texas also preempted cities by prohibiting laws that prevent source of income discrimination. "A proposed bill that was ultimately put on hold in Arizona's most recent legislative session would have prevented municipalities from enforcing any new rules governing landlords," writes Kasakove.

The article includes more context and insight into the ethical and moral quandaries of the local control versus state preemption debate currently driving housing policy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 in Pacific Standard

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

Renewable Energy

Just Transition: Bringing Equity to the Clean Energy Conversation

A new report from the Environmental Defense Fund offers a roadmap for countries, energy companies, and other stakeholders to navigate the complexities of transitioning to clean energy while ensuring equity at every step of the process.

34 minutes ago - Environmental Defense Fund

Black car parked in bike lane

New App Pays Users to Report Illegally Parked Cars

A Swedish company is leveraging the power of crowdsourcing and the gig economy to enforce parking laws.

1 hour ago - Euronews

Close-up of row of slot machines in dark casino.

New York Casinos Gain Zoning Change Approval

The new process will let casino projects avoid undergoing a separate land use review in certain circumstances.

2 hours ago - The Real Deal

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.