America’s racist housing rules really can be fixed

Neighborhoods matter. As Vox’s Dylan Matthews reported, researchers Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz found in 2016 that moving to a wealthier neighborhood not only increased the likelihood that kids would go to college, but also increased earnings by roughly 31 percent by the time they’d reached their mid-20s.

Part of what has kept Kennetha out of living in Franklin is exclusionary zoning. Single-family zoning, which means it’s illegal to build anything other than single-family homes, is prevalent in the suburb. Single-family homes are more expensive than apartments, townhomes, or duplexes, and that makes rent costly, too. Houses in Franklin go for an average price of $550,000, far above the average in Nashville of $335,000.

In some parts of Franklin, it is illegal to have a property smaller than 2 acres. And even in its “mixed residential district” — which allows for duplexes and multiplexes — the town has ordained minimum lot sizes that force builders to make units larger than they otherwise might have. And the bigger the apartment, the more expensive it is.

Exclusionary zoning laws essentially trap many Black families into low-income neighborhoods by pricing them out of richer ones.

Ending residential segregation would allow Americans to move from poor neighborhoods or cities to richer ones and allow lower-skilled workers to find better-paying jobs. To put a number on it, exclusionary zoning has artificially inflated the price of housing so much that one paper estimated that from 1964 to 2009, it lowered the aggregate growth by more than 50 percent.

America’s racist housing rules really can be fixed, Jerusalem Demsas, Vox, Feb. 17th, 2021, available here

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