State-Level Land Use Reform Gains Strength

More state legislatures are considering stricter land use and zoning regulations as a solution to the housing crisis. Some local jurisdictions are pushing back.

1 minute read

January 16, 2024, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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PhotoSerg / Adobe Stock

The high-profile reversal of Montana’s recent zoning reforms highlights a growing movement to shift some zoning and land use decisions to the state level, writes Molly Bolan in Route Fifty.

Long considered a local issue, land use is increasingly becoming a hot-button issue for state legislators seeking ways to ease the housing crisis, reverse exclusionary zoning practices, make housing more available and affordable, and promote sustainable development.

Advocates of state-level reform argue that “While decisions about planning and land-use are felt most directly locally, the consequences of these decisions ripple out across the state and therefore require some state guidance.” In New Jersey, a state law known as the Mount Laurel Doctrine has led to the creation of roughly 21,000 affordable housing units since 2015.

In some cases, states have acted in the opposite direction to block local zoning reforms, as in Florida and Texas, where local decisions were blocked or reversed by state laws.

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