Report: How Outdated Zoning Rules Still Shape Boston

Classist and racist zoning decisions from decades past reverberate in today’s neighborhoods.

1 minute read

November 10, 2023, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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A new report from Boston Indicators “examines how zoning restrictions over the last 100 years has been used to exclude people along race and class lines in Greater Boston,” highlighting the need for zoning reform that can alleviate the region’s housing crisis and begin to undo decades of discriminatory policies. Zeninjor Enwemeka describes the report’s findings in an article for WBUR, noting that “Many suburbs of Boston used zoning policies to explicitly retain wealthy people and restrict lower-income people over decades, the report found.” Due in part to the connection between class and race, the report found racial disparities as well.

Last century’s zoning decisions are still important, the article notes, because they largely dictate new laws. “According to the report, zoning restrictions also helped create housing scarcity and high housing costs in the region as communities sought to be more "exclusive, desirable, expensive." And these things impact everyone today as there is more demand for housing, the report said.”

The report praises the recently passed MBTA Communities zoning law, which requires upzoning near transit to make room for more housing, and calls for more state-level zoning reform. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 in WBUR

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