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The Debate Over Single-Family Zoning

A new survey from Redfin [1]revealed that homebuyers and sellers are nearly twice as likely to oppose increased housing density in their neighborhood than they are to support it. 

The report adds that African-American respondents under the age of 25 were most likely to support policies that encourage dense housing.

Of those that responded, 53% supported zoning policies that limit housing density, and 27% support policies that allow such zoning. 

When broken down by race, a total of 39% of African-American homebuyers and sellers supported increased density in their neighborhood. White homebuyers were in opposition, with 59% opposing such zoning compared to 23% in favor of it. 

“People who don’t want dense housing in their neighborhood often reason that they don’t want to see the character of their neighborhood change,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “Minorities, however, may be less likely to have sentimental feelings about the types of housing that characterize their neighborhoods because zoning policies have often contributed to racial inequality through segregation. However, the minorities who do oppose dense zoning may be opposed to the gentrification that accompanies dense luxury condos and apartments.”

Fairweather added that markets such as Oregon and Minneapolis have made provisions to ban single-family zoning, [2] opting for higher density. 

“Even though pro-density zoning is unpopular among most homebuyers, Presidential candidates from both sides of the political spectrum recognize it as a necessary policy for addressing housing affordability,” Fairweather said. “Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have policies that aim to undo damage racist zoning policies like redlining. President Trump also wants to redesign zoning laws to allow for more dense housing, but with a more free-market approach.”

The release also found that household income does not factor into those in opposition. Redfin reports that 55% of households with an income of more than $200,000 oppose increased density, compared to 51% for homes that earn under $100,000. 

Twenty-nine percent of households that earn more than $200,000 supported higher density, compared to 26% in favor who make less than $100,000.