Institute for Justice announces project to address punitive zoning laws

By Bob Unruh

The Institute for Justice has announced a new project – to address overly restrictive zoning laws across America.

It’s certainly in the news that housing has rocketed to extraordinarily high costs in recent years and months.

The market essentially now excludes many young people and those with lower incomes.

Part of the problem, the IJ charges, is with zoning.

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“Zoning has wreaked havoc on housing in America. Its deprived people of their right to use their land as they see fit, punished well-meaning individuals, and driven a core part of the American Dream—owning a home—out of reach for far too many. Everyone wants to live somewhere safe, convenient, and affordable; overly restrictive zoning shouldn’t get in the way of that,” the organization explains.

Its new work is the Zoning Justice Project.

“For more than 100 years municipalities have enacted increasingly strict and arbitrary rules to control where homes are built. Zoning was supposedly meant to help protect residents by restricting what could be built next to them, particularly in residential areas. But as officials are starting to learn, zoning has helped create a severe housing shortage, causing home prices to skyrocket. It has also been weaponized by local officials to punish critics or hurt well-meaning Americans who were trying to use their land to solve public problems. Now, jurisdictions are rolling back zoning regulations,” the organization reports.

Today, “as much as 75% of land that is zoned for housing in American cities is set aside for single-family zoning, one of the most restrictive types of zoning.”

One state, reviewing its requirements, already has “recommended lawmakers enact legislation that incentivizes local governments to adopt zoning reforms.”

The IJ reports, “Local, state, and even federal lawmakers have started loosening or ending restrictive zoning practices altogether in recent years. Montana, Oregon, California, Washington, and Maine have ended single-family zoning. Most recently, Arizona enacted two laws—one that gives homeowners in certain cities the right to build multiple accessory dwelling units on their properties and another that requires cities of 75,000 or more to allow builders to build duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes in portions of new single-family zoning.”

Reforming zoning will help address housing affordability, but also “restore Americans’ right to use their properties as they see fit,” the IJ said.

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