The Morality of Housing Policy
The practice of regulating land use through zoning ordinances has been a part of American society since the early 20th century. Zoning and other planning practices are often viewed as cumbersome bureaucratic nonsense that needlessly regulates the height of our fences or the width of our houses. In reality, however, these regulations are the tools for the implementation of public policies that dictate the very make-up of our communities. As such these seemingly benign set of laws and regulations are, in some respects, a reflection of the collective morality of our society.
The policies involved reflect how we choose to view and live with one another. At the same time, land-use policies and their implementation through zoning ordinances establish and maintain systems of inequities making them routine. This way of doing things puts enough steps between the policies and the individual so no one has to discuss the moral implications of land-use policy. We don’t have to question the morality of policies implemented by the FHA in the mid-20th century that affectively codified racial segregation and excessively burdened the poor. Instead, the implications of public housing policies are reduced to routine decisions of individually meeting the requirements (i.e. find a single family house in a homogeneous neighborhood) and you can own your own little piece of the American Dream.