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State Limitations on Inclusionary Zoning Hurt Residents’ Health

Relationship Between State Preemption of Inclusionary Zoning Policies and Health Outcomes: Is There Disparate Impact Among People of Color?
Courtnee Melton-Fant
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Inclusionary zoning is used widely by local governments to create mixed-income and racially diverse communities by requiring that a portion of homes in any new residential development must be affordable for households with low- to moderate-incomes. Evidence about the effectiveness of inclusionary zoning is mixed, and many states have moved to prohibit local governments from implementing it. Because of the well-established links between housing and its effects on residents’ health, this study analyzes the relationship between state preemption of inclusionary zoning and health outcomes among different demographic groups.

The author used 2016–18 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey data for health-related demographic information and National League of Cities data for information on state preemption of inclusionary zoning. The study controlled for individual-level factors, such as health insurance status, income, homeownership status, and tobacco use, and state-level factors, such as per capita gross domestic product, new housing building permits per 1,000 residents, and net population growth.

Key findings
  • State preemption of inclusionary zoning was significantly associated with greater likelihood of delaying medical care because of cost among Black adults.
  • Preemption was also associated with higher likelihood of poor or fair self-rated health status in the entire population, as well as among white and Black adults. This finding did not extend to Hispanic[i] adults.
Policy implications

People of color, Black Americans in particular, have a long history of exclusion from well-resourced communities. Inclusionary zoning is one tool local governments can use to address this history by expanding the availability of moderately priced housing in new developments. Much of the existing literature and debate on inclusionary zoning’s effectiveness focuses on the impacts to local housing markets, but this study makes the case that inclusionary zoning also delivers health benefits. Because state preemption of local governments’ ability to implement inclusionary zoning is politically difficult to overturn once enacted, local housing strategies could address other exclusionary barriers, such as land-use regulations that increase the cost of new development and excessively stringent building codes.

[i] The Housing Matters editorial team decided to use the term “Hispanic” to refer to people of Latin American origin in alignment with the terminology used by the author of the study.

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