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How Zoning Restrictions Make Segregation Worse

A new study identifies the precise ways that stricter land use regulations lead to greater divides.
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We’ve long known two things about land use regulations. One is that elements of them—in the form of large lot requirements and other aspects of “exclusionary zoning”—have led to the racial and economic segregation. The other is that restrictive land use and building codes in cities limit housing construction (and therefore housing supply), leading to increased costs, worse affordability problems, and deepened inequality in urban centers.

What we haven’t fully understood—until now—is how restrictive land use regulations in cities and urban centers shape segregation across entire metropolitan areas. A new study by Michael C. Lens and Paavo Monkkonen from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs*, published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, takes on the precise nature of the connection between land use restrictions and the economic segregation of metros. The study uses new and better measures for both segregation and land use restrictions to examine this relationship in 95 large metropolitan areas in 2000 and 2010.