Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Eliminating Single-Family Housing with Neo-Liberal Zoning
The spatial distribution of housing in Minneapolis and all of the Twin Cities metro area is a
product of race and class. Yet curing this discrimination does not reside in the elimination of single-family housing through changes in zoning or a comprehensive plan. Such an approach, call it neo-liberal zoning, is destined to achieve the same results in land use that neo-liberalism achieved economically over the last 40 years domestically and internationally.
Residential housing patterns are the product of discrimination. Private discriminatory preferences coupled with market decisions were enabled by racial covenants, government redlining, and zoning to produce the segregation patterns we see today. Countless books, such as Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton’s classic American Apartheid, tell this story well. Nearly 25 years ago at the Institute of Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota, I helped author a study pointing to the Twin Cities Metro region being the third most segregated urban area in the nation. More recently, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity located persistent segregation in the placement of low income housing and education policy choices that concentrate low income people of color in specific neighborhoods and schools.
Fixing this segregation demands a metro-wide solution. Yet Minneapolis has acted on its own via its 2040 comprehensive plan to address this problem. It solution mostly includes elimination of single-family zoning, believing that intensification of land use along with market incentives will encourage the building of more housing. Presumably this market-driven approach will mean more housing in more places, thereby fixing the economic and racial residential discrimination.
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