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The Impact of Zoning



“Eliminating Exclusionary Land Use Regulations Should be the Civil Rights Issue of our Time” by Michael Stegman, published under the the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University recently, examines the impact of zoning on socioeconomic factors across the nation. 

While the paper focuses its view on potential national policy to address the housing crisis, it also dives into what has been successful, and not successful, at the local level.  Here on the North Shore, some of the local policies mentioned have been seen firsthand.  In a recent Topsfield Town Meeting a vote passed to increase minimum lot sizes from 1 to 2 acres. Data from Glaeser and Ward shows “that each additional acre in minimum lot size decreases new construction by roughly 40 percent and increases housing prices by roughly 10 percent.”  Among Stegman’s “Promising local practices” are included Transit-oriented development and by-right development. NSAR has seen municipalities implement Transit-oriented development especially around the commuter rail and by-right development has been increasingly seen in new Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinances.


Stegman continues the discussion back on the national level stating, “While this patchwork of local innovations is welcome and important, without a national response, it is hard to see them adding up to the kind of systemic reforms necessary to tackle the problem.” With the presidential election fast approaching, zoning could become a national conversation as the housing crisis continues.



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