Zoning’s History of Exclusion

Housing Affordability Institute released a new white paper highlighting the role racial and socioeconomic exclusion has played in America’s housing regulatory framework. With the inception of standard zoning practices in the 1920s and the rise of institutional segregation in the 1930s, America’s housing policies are rooted in exclusion. 


  • Modern zoning and planning were born from race-based zoning codes being declared unconstitutional in 1917.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, institutional exclusion grew through lending practices and racially restrictive covenants.
  • A century after modern zoning and planning were born, fiscal zoning and contemporary planning rely upon the underlying principles of socioeconomic segregation.

The white paper is part of the Institute’s Exclusionary Zoning series which highlights zoning’s historic use as a tool of exclusion and how those policies can impact housing affordability and access today.