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Cityscape: Volume 25 Number 3 | 100 Years of Federal-Model Zoning


100 Years of Federal-Model Zoning

Volume 25 Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

It’s Not Only Hoover’s Fault: Reflections and Opportunities on the Centennial of the State Zoning Enabling Act

Pamela M. Blumenthal
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official positions or policies of the Office of Policy Development and Research, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the U.S. Government

The lack of sufficient housing units in communities across the United States has resulted in high housing costs (Gyourko and Molloy, 2015) and accompanying high rates of housing instability (Raphael, 2010), reduced labor mobility (Ganong and Shoag, 2012), and increased commuting times (with harmful climate impacts) (Gately and Reardon, 2021). Those consequences negatively affect households, neighborhoods, local governments, and regions. Land use regulation is regularly identified as significantly contributing to the lack of housing, with a particular focus on zoning ordinances, which are adopted at the local level. Local choices thus contribute to a national affordability crisis, suggesting the need for federal action. Recent administrations going back to 2016 have proposed the need for regulatory reform to increase housing supply (White House, 2016, 2019, 2022). Those actions often are met with consternation, anger, or fear: the federal government should not be involved in local land use decisions. However, the federal government supported local zoning 100 years ago, raising the question of what role that involvement played in creating today’s housing outcomes.

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