"Promoting housing affordability by combating exclusionary housing policies"


EHI law clerks write extensive reports on aspects of controlling regulatory barriers
to affordable housing nationwide, as EHI plans recommendations for improvements

EHI law clerks have documented statutory approaches to controlling exclusionary housing practices in numerous states, and under federal Religious Land Use Act ("RLUIPA"). Their work has greatly advanced EHI’s planned report on improving protection of opportunities for low- and moderate-income Americans to access housing that is affordable. For more on the statutory reports by EHI's law clerks, please STATUTORY CONTROLS ON EXCLUSIONARY HOUSING PRACTICES
In addition, EHI law clerks have provided reports on many other aspects of exclusionary housing practices, including the following: 
EHI's three law clerks for summer 2012 focused on evaluating the need for better legal protection of housing opportunities affordable to low- and moderate-income Americans. 
Ryan Frazee (Georgetown University Law Center Class of '14) worked full-time, producing extensive memoranda that summarized the results to date of –
  • Judicial decisions that have declared rights of low- and moderate-income Americans to the opportunity for adequate, affordable housing. (Examples are the Mount Laurel I & II decisions in New Jersey, and judicial decisions in California and New York);  
  • statutory programs that provide voluntary incentives to landowners and developers to produce more affordable housing (for example, in Minnesota, California, New York City and Seattle); and
  • statutes that provide for an override by a state agency of local land use actions (or inactions) that deny or unduly burden meritorious proposals to develop affordable housing (for example, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Oregon). 
Victoria Cheshire and Emily Kornfeld (both of George Mason University School of Law Class of '14), worked part-time and produced extensive memoranda on key factors in evaluating the need. Ms. Kornfeld documented how unwarranted local land use restrictions and burdens have led to unnecessarily sprawling development and its consequences – including extreme commuting problems, excessive fuel consumption, unnecessary levels of road building, air pollution and other environmental problems.
Ms. Cheshire showed how a wide variety of regulatory barriers raise housing prices a great deal, in many major American metropolitan areas, and adversely affect housing markets. The barriers she discussed include unnecessary zoning restrictions, subdivision controls, up-front development impact fees, and high property taxes. She also documented the relative success that the Houston, Texas, area has had in keeping housing affordable (building on an outline by former EHI law clerk Robyn Burrows (George Mason University School of Law Class of '12). That area happens to be the only major metropolitan area in the United States that does not engage in zoning or central planning. 


Two of EHI's law clerks for summer 2011  -- Alyssa DiGiacinto (George Mason University School of Law, Class of 2013) and Sara Tonnesen (Georgetown University Law Center. Class of 2013) -- focused on regulatory barriers in Northern Virginia. Among their many contributions:

  • Ms. Tonnesen produced an extensive report on the Fort Belvoir area of Fairfax County, where the Army base is undergoing a major personnel buildup that is adding to the serious housing affordability challenges in the area; and
  • Ms. DiGiacinto provided helpful facts and figures on jobs and housing units in the nearby Springfield area of the County.

Due largely to their efforts, EHI now has a detailed knowledge of current planning and zoning throughout Fairfax County, and it has advised affordable housing advocates in the Fort Belvoir area and elsewhere about causes of, and cures for, their affordable housing challenges. For more on Fort Belvoir-related issues, CLICK HERE. 


In 2010, law clerk Ginger Collier (Georgetown University Law Center, Class of 2012), a professional economist, performed an analysis of several important, recent economic studies of the effects of regulatory barriers. She found that they are a measurable problem in many major metropolitan areas across the nation, including some not specifically discussed in those studies. 

The studies’ authors are Profs. Edward L. Glaeser of Harvard University, Joseph Gyourko of the University of Pennsylvania, and their associates. E.g., Edward L. Glaeser, et al., The Impact of Building Restrictions on Housing Affordability, Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, June 2003, at 28, available at: http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/epr/03v09n2/0306glae.pdf. The studies are a big step forward in the analysis of the effects of regulatory barriers on housing prices. For more on those studies, CLICK HERE.