About single-family zoning

All about single-family zoning

Before zoning, individual property restrictions were one of the only instruments to control land use. When power-brokers and municipalities learned that zoning could legally restrict land use, separating preferred uses from “nuisance” uses, nearly every major city in the country adopted a zoning code.

Today the effect of zoning neighborhoods as exclusively single-family is far-reaching. In many U.S. cities, it’s illegal on 75% of residential land to build anything other than a detached single-family home.

By EMILY BADGER and QUOCTRUNG BUI
The New York Times

People are now realizing that this restrictive development rule is an extension of residential restrictions used as cover to separate people by race and class. Zoning an area for single-family homes that must be a certain size on a certain lot size is a very effective way to keep neighborhoods affluent and white. That’s why it’s time to re-evaluate our century-old zoning regulations.

With sprawling development patterns that feed gridlock and auto emissions, single-family zoning is a relic of the past that doesn’t support the types of inclusive communities we deserve in Central Ohio. To make our neighborhoods more affordable, we need to restrict single-family zoning—not restrict housing construction.


Single-family zoning means that everything else is banned: apartments, senior housing, low-income housing, student housing — all banned.


While it’s true that individual properties can receive a variance to be “upzoned” on a case by case basis, it would be much more prudent to holistically rezone our communities to keep everyone on a level playing field. Increasing the density allowed in all single-family neighborhoods at once would be a fantastic—and fairer—way to start.

Zoning laws helped divide and segregate our cities by separating housing types, meaning renters would be less likely to live among homeowners, or working-class families among wealthy ones, or minority children near high-performing schools.



And because single-family zoning keeps so much land off-limits to new housing, it forces new housing stock into poorer, minority communities or onto undeveloped land outside of cities.