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Zoning's Role in Segregation

An editorial in the New York Times argues that exclusionary zoning reinforces segregation and must be curbed.
August 8, 2017, 1pm PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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New York City Planning Commission

Richard D. Kahlenberg sees segregation written into the zoning laws of American cities and towns. Even though racial segregation laws have been struck down by the Supreme Court, exclusionary zoning endures, and that zoning, Kahlenberg argues, is fueling segregation.

"The Supreme Court’s comparative willingness to tolerate explicit economic discrimination is mirrored in American public policy," Kahlenberg argues. These laws and policies have ensured that, while racial segregation has decreased, class segregation has increased. "Exclusionary zoning frustrates the Fair Housing Act’s aim by erecting barriers that exclude millions of low-income African-Americans and Latinos from wealthier white communities," Kahlenberg writes.

Kahlenberg sees a solution in a curb on the extent of zoning, either with an outright ban or a punitive action. "If we can’t achieve a ban, we should assess a penalty on municipalities that engage in discriminatory zoning, either by withholding infrastructure funds or limiting the tax deduction that homeowners in those towns can take for mortgage interest," he writes.

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Published on Thursday, August 3, 2017 in The New York Times
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