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A Golden State Shift in Single-Family Housing

Commentary from the Sacramento Bee says it's time for California’s capital city to move away from single-family housing in favor of high-density zoning. 

The piece says the city is currently undergoing a rewrite of its plans for growth through 2040. However, like most cities, most of the city’s zoning is for single-family housing. 

“If Sacramento is serious about inclusive growth, affordability and climate change, it’s time the city opens up its most exclusive neighborhoods to more housing options,” the commentary says. 

Single-family zoning, the piece says, has “essentially guaranteed” certain neighborhoods are out of reach for low-income and minority communities. 

“The ugly, racist origins of zoning explicitly prohibited non-whites from purchasing property in some neighborhoods,” the Sacramento Bee says. “Even after explicitly-racial zoning was made illegal in 1917, public lending institutions refused to back loans to non-whites in exclusive neighborhoods through redlining.”

The piece adds that Sacramento needs to build more housing to accommodate the city’s changing demographics, adding duplexes, affordable housing structures, and rentable housing. 

Sacramento’s position on single-family housing is consistent with the state’s, as a Los Angeles Times report details how California lawmakers successfully passed pieces of legislation over the past several years that have chipped away at single-family zoning. 

The report says that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed multiple bills into law this week that allowing property owners to build a backyard home of at least 800-square-feet. The bill would also allow homeowners to convert a garage, office, or space room into living quarters. New legislation would allow for three homes on land previously zoned for single-family.

“We’re on the precipice of single-family zoning functionally not existing,” said Ben Metcalf, former Director of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

California has become one of many states—joining Oregon, Minnesota, and North Carolina—that have taken steps to remove single-family zoning. 

Durham, North Carolina, in September amended ordinances for higher density, “undoing decades-old vestigaes” of discrimination that have prevented African-Americans from owning homes. 

The ordinance, known as “Expanding Housing Choices,” amends zoning rules in areas near downtown to allow for higher density. City and county planners believe this could stabilize home prices as the market grows. 

Oregon’s HB 2001 went into effect on August 8, and mandates that cities with a population of more than or equal to 25,000 to allow middle-housing types on lots previously earmarked for the development of detached single-family housing. 

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.

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