Bringing the Case for Exclusionary Zoning Reform to Tennessee

The past, present, and future of zoning in Tennessee.

2 minute read

November 2, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


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Daniel T. Mollenkamp writes a detailed article on the history of zoning, the ongoing evolution of zoning practice to undo some of the discriminatory effects of exclusionary zoning, and the possibility of reform in the various cities of Tennessee.

According to Mollenkamp, Tennessee is in need of a conversation about race:

Across Tennessee, studies have revealed racial disparities in both homeownership and in the value of the homes owned by racial minorities, partly owing to the history of housing policies that intentionally favored white home-ownership over black. 

For examples of recent zoning reforms designed to undo some of those effects, Mollenkamp cites the state of California, the city of Minneapolis, and the city of Charlotte:

The city of Charlotte decided to allow dense housing, such as duplexes and other multiplexes, in previously single-family zoned areas, during an overhaul of the city’s zoning earlier this year. The decision prompted questions about whether it could serve as a model for the South to grapple with historical injustices since Charlotte is more culturally similar to Tennessee than California. The city is in the process of putting the rules into practice through its Unified Development Ordinance, which is still open for public comment.

Mollenkamp also discusses the challenges of bringing of bringing zoning reform to Tennessee, including a wide gap between the state's rural areas and its urban areas (e.g., Memphis and Nashville) and the high rates of poverty in the state's cities.

The article cites Yonah Freemark, senior research associate in Metropolitan Housing and Communities at the urban Institute, as a subject matter expert, and also cites a 2021 study into the effects of Minneapolis' zoning reforms by Daniel Kuhlmann, an assistant professor in the Department of Community and Regional Planning at Iowa State University; a 2020 report into the racial disparities in the Tennessee housing market by University of Tennessee, Chattanooga researcher Darrell R. Walsh; and additional Tennessee housing market data from the National Association of Builders.  

Monday, November 1, 2021 in Tennessee Lookout

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