Dismantling Segregationist Land Use Controls

22 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2020

Date Written: August 01, 2020


Since the inception of the American law of zoning, communities with local political power have used zoning to exclude from white neighborhoods Black and Indigenous people and other People of Color. Modernly, restrictive residential zoning continues to be used as a tool by those with local political power to keep those without local political power out of their neighborhoods, schools, and parks. The result is that land use law continues to be used in municipalities throughout the United States to racially and economically segregate neighborhoods, further entrenching one of the root causes of racial injustice.

Dismantling a segregationist land use system embraced by US cities for more than a century requires a bold shift in paradigm, a redefining or rejection of the American land use law concept of "compatible uses" of land that communities have used and continue to use to exclude People of Color from predominantly white neighborhoods and the myriad privileges that attach to residence and home-ownership in those neighborhoods.

This article briefly reviews the segregationist history of land use controls and the many ways modern zoning regulations continue to facilitate segregation by race and class of communities throughout the United States. The article then examines four examples of recent land use law reforms that land use planners and lawyers, state and local government officials, and affected communities have instituted to confront this historic and continuing system of oppression.

Keywords: Land Use, Zoning, Race, Segregation, Fair Housing, Affordable Housing, Middle Housing

JEL Classification: I31, N91, N92, R14, R28, Z13

Suggested Citation

Adams-Schoen, Sarah, Dismantling Segregationist Land Use Controls (August 01, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3695337 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3695337

Sarah Adams-Schoen (Contact Author)

University of Oregon School of Law ( email )

1515 Agate St.
Eugene, OR 97403-1221
United States

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