ADDRESSING CHALLENGES TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LAND USE LAW: RECOGNIZING AFFORDABLE HOUSING AS A RIGHT
The rise of the zoning efforts in the 20th century has reinforced efforts to separate neighborhood communities based on race, income and even social status. Where housing is deemed more affordable, it is typically located in underserved and undesirable neighborhoods, often difficult to access parts of town located miles away from grocery stores, public transportation, parks, resources and higher quality schools. Despite the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex, the separation of homeowners has allowed school segregation to resurface.
Land use laws, particularly zoning, plays a huge role in constraining the available supply of affordable housing. Specifically, restrictive zoning rules like the zoning for single family homes only, effectively reduces the supply that is available for new affordable housing. Zoning which limits construction to single family homes has primarily only benefited wealthier families. Often unaffordable for low income or middle class residents, single family zoning places the full cost of land on each household. Even when there are zoning laws that allow the construction of higher density, usually more affordable housing, regulations like: height restrictions, minimum lot size requirements, the prohibition on accessory dwelling units or setback requirements, all impair the affordability of housing units.
As land use laws contribute to the shortage of affordable housing, it is critical to remove the blockages to constructing additional affordable housing. To learn more about how zoning laws reinforce the pipeline to homelessness and the importance of recognizing affordable housing as right in addressing the role of barriers in exacerbating the ever present and growing affordable housing crisis, please visit: https://harvardlawreview.org/2022/02/addressing-challenges-to-affordable-housing-in-land-use-law/