Journal of the American Planning Association
Co-authored by Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen, and #UnequalCities Steering Committee member Michael Lens
Abstract: Local planning in the United States is unique in the amount of land it reserves for detached single-family homes. This privileging of single-family homes, normally called R1 zoning, exacerbates inequality and undermines efficiency. R1’s origins are unpleasant: Stained by explicitly classist and implicitly racist motivations, R1 today continues to promote exclusion. It makes it harder for people to access high opportunity places, and in expensive regions it contributes to shortages of housing, thereby benefiting homeowners at the expense of renters and forcing many housing consumers to spend more on housing. Stacked against these drawbacks, moreover, are a series of only weak arguments in R1’s favor about preferences, aesthetics, and a single-family way of life. We demonstrate that these pro-R1 concerns are either specious, or can be addressed in ways less socially harmful than R1. Given the strong arguments against R1 and the weak arguments for it, we contend planners should work to abolish R1 single-family zoning.
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