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Renewed Call for Changing Single-Family Zoning Laws

Ibraheem Samirah, a state delegate from Virginia, is not backing down from his fight against single-family zoning laws in his state. As the nation continues to grapple with the issue of racism since the police killing of George Floyd, Samirah is reiterating his stance on single-family zoning laws through the lens of racism.

Samirah introduced a zoning reform bill that would allow for two-family housing on lots across the state of Virginia. He has suggested that allowing duplexes, townhomes, and accessory dwelling units would alleviate affordability barriers and lead to several other benefits as well.

“Not only does density promote affordability by increasing the supply of housing units, but it’s also better for the environment, combats the legacy of neighborhood segregation, facilitates better public transit, and makes a more connected local and regional economy,” he wrote on his website [1].

His bill was struck down, but he continues to argue for a change in zoning restrictions.

In an op-ed piece for the Richmond Times-Dispatch [2], Samirah wrote that so-called “exclusionary zoning” is one way “communities continued to bake segregation based on race and income into their neighborhood designs” even after racial zoning became outlawed.

Today, according to Samirah, “experts are beginning to overwhelmingly agree that decades of zoning for only single-family homes in our metro areas has led to an affordable housing shortage, coupled with segregation, sprawling development, longer commutes, higher carbon emissions, and missed economic growth.”

Samirah spoke to MReport for its July issue [3], saying he believes many Americans would be in favor of more relaxed zoning laws that would allow for more dense housing.

“We underestimate how many people truly want to embrace the benefits of density, whether it be living within walking distance of a job, having robust public spaces, having access to different cultural experiences, or relying less on cars through a solid public transit system,” he said.

Zoning has been an issue in many states over the past few years with a few states passing laws strike down single-family exclusive zoning.

Oregon passed state-wide zoning laws that allow for duplexes, townhomes and more to be built in areas previously zoned strictly for single-family housing.