An Economic History of Zoning and a Cure for Its Exclusionary Effects

Published: 2001 | William A. Fischel | Urban Studies


I outline the twentieth-century history of American zoning to explain how homeowners came to dominate its content and administration in most jurisdictions. Zoning’s original purpose was to protect homeowners in residential areas from devaluation by industrial and apartment uses that had been made footloose by trucks and buses around 1910-1920. Completion of the interstate highway system around 1970 made jobs and employees so mobile that suburbs adopted growth controls to stem the tide. If zoning is indeed a substitute for home-value insurance, it seems worthwhile to investigate the possibility of home-equity insurance to reduce the demand for exclusionary zoning.