Is Zoning Doing More Harm Than Good?

July 28, 2016

It has been 100 years since the first set of land-use rules that covered an entire city and used the word “zone” appeared in the U.S. when the New York City Board of Estimate voted to divide the city into residential, commercial, and industrial zones on July 25, 1916.

While this was a huge step in the development of New York City, Justin Fox of Bloomberg asks the question, is zoning now doing more harm than good? Zoning certainly has its fair share of arguments against it such as the suggestion that it is used to keep poor people and minorities out of wealthy neighborhoods, increasing income segregation, reducing economic mobility, and depressing economic growth across the country.

However, if zoning is done away with completely, will developers continue to take risks? How can a developer justify building a huge, luxury high-rise worth millions upon millions of dollars if they can’t be sure that in five years time, a large smoke-breathing factory won’t pop up next door?

Zoning isn’t necessarily all bad, and may even have been inevitable, but should we be searching for a better alternative, or at least an improvement to the current system?

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