Project Highlights Relationship Between Zoning and Affordable Housing

A nationwide ‘digital zoning atlas’ shows how different zoning districts overlap with and affect transportation, infrastructure, and housing affordability.

June 19, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Inspired by a Connecticut project led by Cornell professor Sara Bronin, a group of academics, advocates, and policymakers are creating a nationwide ‘zoning atlas’ that will visualize local zoning codes and highlight how zoning rules impact the housing market. As Carl Smith reports in Governing, “Connecticut has the only statewide atlas that has been completed to date, but projects are already underway in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York and Ohio.”

The Connecticut project led to concrete policy changes, according to DesegregateCT director Peter Harrison. “You click and change from single-family housing allowed as-of-right to multifamily as-of-right, and the map goes blank — the story we’re trying to tell becomes real at a scale and speed that we could not do without it.”

The national effort is bringing together researchers from other states to map similar data. “This will help researchers who want to understand zoning’s impact on housing, education, environmental quality, climate change, transportation patterns, the economy and even government finances.”

Bronin and her collaborators hope that the atlas will provide a data-driven tool to help policymakers make informed decisions. “Our hope is that we’re laying the groundwork for many different people to use this information to guide decisions and also to engage people in the process of planning.”

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