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Sustainable Communities Thought Leadership

Housing Forum: Expanding Housing Choice

How residential zoning reform can improve equitable access to affordable housing and economic opportunity

Single-family residential zoning first began in 1916 as an effort to keep minorities out of white neighborhoods. The US Supreme Court’s 1917 ruling declared explicit race-based zoning statutes unconstitutional. But the same court ruled less than a decade later that zoning to prevent apartment buildings from being built in single-family neighborhoods was a legitimate prohibition. Over time, widely used single-family zoning restricted the development of accessory dwelling units, duplexes, townhomes and apartments, thereby inhibiting housing supply; and it has been an instrument for more than a century of both widening income inequality and racial segregation.

A recent report from the University of California Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute finds that 81% of large metropolitan areas are more segregated now than they were 30 years ago. In many of these cities, townhomes, duplexes and apartments are effectively banned. In Sandy Springs, 85% of land zoned for residential is zoned single-family only (for comparison: 75% for Los Angeles, 79% in Chicago, and 84% in Charlotte).

Given the growing disparities in access to affordable housing, wealth, and economic opportunity, metro Atlanta is facing a crisis. Ranked as one of the ten largest metro regions of the United States, we rank 316th in population density. The region’s population is expected to grow dramatically in the next couple of decades. How will we meet the growing demand for affordable housing – and the need for a more equitable city and region?

As the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum continues to examine issues of racial equity and systemic racism in the housing sector, our next Forum will explore single-family zoning and address several key questions: What changes to zoning are being proposed? How will zoning changes result in more affordable housing? What will be the fiscal and environmental impacts of such changes? Do proposed changes to zoning provide a market-based solution to our housing shortage? How effective are zoning policy changes in Portland, Minneapolis, Berkley, and Charlotte?

Lastly, we will talk with developers and others in the YIMBY movement about how best to move the dialogue forward to produce more affordable housing by the private sector, right historic injustices, and preserve the beloved community.

Join us Wednesday, August 4 at 9:30 a.m. for our virtual Atlanta Regional Housing Forum as we discuss these important issues.

Register Now at www.AtlantaRegionalHousingForum.org


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1 Comment

  1. Frank Lee July 18, 2021 2:10 pm

    Why do those in favor of increased density keep mentioning the fact that single family zoning is racist in origin? Isn’t it just a thinly-veiled attempt to accuse anyone concerned about proposed changes of being racist? And, knowing that people don’t like being called racist, isn’t it an attempt to guilt-trip and shame people into backing down from expressing their concerns?Report


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