Overcoming Barriers to Scattered-Site Low-Cost Housing

The effect of most zoning devices which have been used in suburban and non-ghetto city planning in the past few decades has been to erect substantial economic barriers around entire cities. These devices include minimum lot size requirements, density zoning, frontage requirements, single family restrictions, and minimum living space requirements. While such zoning practices may not be exclusionary in purpose, exclusion of minority groups has been the result. Moreover, since most minorities are heavily concentrated in low income groups, economic segregation will bring about a high degree of racial and ethnic segregation. Indeed, it has been suggested that these economic barriers are the easiest and most effective form of such segregation. In any case, a zoning scheme in which large areas of the outlying residential districts are restricted to large lot, single family developments will run counter to the recently articulated federal policy of encouraging the development of low-cost housing outside the center city area. This article will discuss various factors which hinder attempts to revise current zoning plans so as to allow the construction of low-cost housing in non-ghetto areas. It will also suggest ways of surmounting these obstacles and thereby implementing the federal policy.