Q&A: Why do you call single-family zoning “selfish and cruel?”

Q. Why do you call single-family zoning “selfish and cruel?”

A. Imagine a community where zoning law states that on any legally buildable lot, you can construct a single-family, detached home covering no more than 35 percent of it and no more than 30 feet tall.*

Some people get together and use their political influence to create a new sub-category let’s call “GD” for “Golden Door.”  In areas with this added designation, nothing changes except that any home’s front door must be made of solid gold.

All those able to afford a home with a wooden door but one with the added cost of a golden one will be priced out of areas with this designation.

Now imagine a community where zoning law states that on any legally buildable lot, you can construct a residential building covering no more than 35 percent of it and no more than 30 feet tall.**

Some people  get together and use their political influence to create as new sub-category let’s call “NCW” for “No Common Walls.”  In areas with this added designation, nothing changes except that no home may have a shared wall with another.

All those able to afford a home with walls in common—a duplex or triplex—but not the added cost of one without will be priced out of areas with this designation.

“GD” and “NCW” are morally equivalent uses of political power to disadvantage those with less for the benefit of those with more. “NCW” is simply a different way of phrasing a requirement that every residence must be a single-family detached house.

That’s why I call single-family zoning selfish and cruel.

*This is reasonably close to Seattle’s single-family zoning rules.

**This is reasonably close to HALA recommendation SF2.

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