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The Debate Over Single Family Housing

Published on February 27, 2020

A view of a housing development of single family homes with a dense urban city in the background.
Single family housing zones are shaping cities and are being reconsidered. Image Credit: Andreas Praefcke via Wikimedia Commons (CCA 3.0).

Nearly a century into the story of single-family zoning, feelings and ideas around it are starting to shift. The City of Minneapolis and the State of Oregon both recently passed laws that loosen single-family regulations. California has proposed similar measures: some have failed (such as one encouraging denser development near transit), others have succeeded (such as ones encouraging backyard cottages). New bills in Maryland and Virginia also take aim.

Given these trends, the moment is right for everyone concerned with the future of cities to revisit single-family zoning, and indeed, there’s an entire issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association dedicated to that very debate. Published in January, the issue features nine essays, representing 14 total planning voices, taking up the question of whether or not single-family zoning’s time has come — and, if so, what to do about it.

Taking a strictly professional angle, urban studies professor Anaid Yerena of the University of Washington says planners have an “ethical responsibility” to eliminate single-family zoning. Yerena quotes from the American Institute of Certified Planners Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which states: “We shall seek social justiceby working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration.” To Yerena, eliminating single-family zoning is an obligation — “not merely a matter of choice.”

Continue reading at Side Walk Talk

Originally written by Eric Jaffe for  Side Walk Talk. 
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