Major reform of land use regulations is needed, in order to combat exclusionary zoning and other economically exclusionary housing practices. There is an emerging consensus to that effect among housing policy experts, economists, and even Presidents of the United States—across the political spectrum. (For more about that virtual consensus, please click on EMERGING CONSENSUS ON REGULATORY BARRIERS TO HOUSING AFFORDABILITY.)

In response, EHI issued a report in December 2019 that contains its initial recommendations for a new statute that would ban exclusionary and discriminatory housing practices comprehensively—including economically exclusionary housing practices. Such a statute could be enacted by any state, or by the federal government (in a slightly different form). To access that report, please click on TOWARD A COMPREHENSIVE BAN ON EXCLUSIONARY HOUSING PRACTICES.

EHI’s report summarizes some major problems created by economically exclusionary housing practices. For example, they:

  • Play a primary role in Americans’ mounting problems with housing affordability,
  • Seriously aggravate the increasing residential isolation of Americans into “rich” and “poor” neighborhoods—cutting against efforts to reduce residential isolation of minority groups (most members of which are on the lower half of the income and wealth spectrums); and
  • Interfere with interstate commerce and the nation’s economic growth because, for example, their use in wealthier states adversely affects mobility and productivity among low- and moderate-income Americans in other states as well.

The statute that EHI envisions would expand protections against housing discrimination beyond those in the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.) which is the basic, federal housing discrimination statute. That statute does not address economic discrimination generally. It addresses discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, and national origin.

EHI’s report concludes that the approach of the Federal Fair Housing Act shows some promise as a model for a comprehensive ban on exclusionary housing practices. Studies show that since creation of that statute in 1968, racial isolation in housing—notably of African-Americans from whites—has been decreasing steadily and substantially in each decade, in the nation overall.

Among the strengths of that statute are its specific definitions of prohibited conduct, and its strong enforcement provisions. The statute may be enforced through legal action by the Justice Department, and by victims of violations, as well as by the U.S. Dep’t of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A variety of strong remedies are authorized where violations are found.

EHI also analyzes the prominent, time-tested, state statutory approaches in Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Oregon. Each of those statutes introduced bold, innovative and helpful features, and each of them has been credited with leading to substantial increases in the amount of housing in the state that is affordable to low- and moderate-income people.

However, those state statutes have not been able to prevent worse-than-average housing affordability problems in their states. None of those statutes includes an outright ban on exclusionary housing practices.

Thus, none of those statutes appear to offer a sufficiently reliable model for minimizing those practices comprehensively, statewide or nationwide. Nor do any other state statutes of which EHI is aware make a comprehensive ban on exclusionary housing practices unnecessary. For more, please click on TOWARD A COMPREHENSIVE BAN ON EXCLUSIONARY HOUSING PRACTICES.