Should We Abolish Zoning?

16 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2023

See all articles by Jason Sorens

Jason Sorens

American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: July 31, 2023


This paper investigates the merits of abolishing zoning. Recent arguments for zoning abolition maintain that local governments can adequately regulate land use without the strict separation of permitted uses that characterizes modern zoning. The harms of zoning are consequential, and the case for abolishing zoning is stronger than it appears at first, because it does not imply abolishing other forms of land-use regulation. Meanwhile, zoning defenders counter that localities need use zoning to preserve the integrity of residential neighborhoods. The debate hinges on a political economy question: Will zoning powers inevitably be abused, or even reconstituted in some other form if orthodox use zoning were abolished? Evidence and theory both suggest that private land-use governance could be a non-exclusionary substitute for use zoning, but transaction costs in setting up alternatives to zoning are significant. The paper concludes with proposals for deep reform to zoning.

Keywords: zoning, land use, property rights, private communities

JEL Classification: H79, K29, R38, R52

Suggested Citation

Sorens, Jason, Should We Abolish Zoning? (July 31, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Jason Sorens (Contact Author)

American Institute for Economic Research ( email )

United States


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