Understanding Historic Exclusion, Current Evidence, and Recent Zoning and Land-Use Reforms and Processes for Racial Equity

Statement of Eleanor Noble, Research Analyst, Urban Institute

Zoning and land-use policies have played a central role in exacerbating racial economic and housing disparities. Although explicit race-based zoning was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1917, racist land-use and zoning policies continued in DC through redlining, racial covenants, apartment bans and large-lot minimums, and exclusionary single-family zoning (Greene, Turner, and Gourevitch 2017). Now, federal, state, and local decisionmakers, like you, have increasingly turned their attention toward zoning reform in attempts to both rectify historically exclusionary codes and address a severe housing shortage. My testimony outlines evidence and examples for three key considerations for the Zoning Commission while finalizing this Data Equity Tool: (1) the importance of using data to target historically exclusionary neighborhoods for zoning reforms and development approvals; (2) how to account for a lack of equitable representation in zoning decisionmaking; and (3) tools and considerations to ensure racially equitable benefits at the individual, development, and neighborhood levels from zoning reforms and development.