Is current zoning upholding racial discrimination and segregation? The simple answer is yes.
Our communities were built on zoning policy that was explicitly racist, and current practices maintain the status quo. Anyone seeking to better understand U.S. housing policy should read The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. The author traces the historical racial discrimination in housing and banking policy to the wealth disparities seen today.
Black families blocked from homeownership were prevented from building wealth, which directly correlates to modern-day wealth gaps. Black families were further blocked from accessing rental housing in suburban communities by zoning practices that prevented multifamily developments. Black families remained poorer and more likely to be renters, and today disproportionately benefit from access to affordable housing—both in rental and affordable homeownership efforts.
So, creating affordability and choice is fundamental to achieving desegregation.
One legislator asked why, if discriminatory practices were happening, was there no action being taken? If something racist is going on, the legislator argued, then legal action should be taken.
The simple answer is: Many are making that case and taking action. How odd that our legislators cannot see that seeking legislative redress is one way of seeking to correct wrongs. It is precisely what is being asked by the proponents of bills like S.B. 1024 and H.B. 6611.
It is also a claim that is being made currently through other legal means. Two examples are pending actions initiated by Open Communities Alliance—a HUD complaint filed against that State of Connecticut and the widely publicized action against the Town of Woodbridge.
Why can’t this be left up to local control to solve? The answer here is simple. Local control has been ineffective in solving this issue. For decades.
Opinion: How Connecticut Towns Maintain Segregation, Karen Dubois-Walton, New Haven Independent, Mar. 23, 2021, available here