Ending Zoning’s Racist Legacy

Zoning Practice — January 2022

By Jennifer Raitt


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Land-use planning and zoning laws were born to wrangle the potential for human chaos. Early planners determined that separating uses and creating community order would create a new peace. That "chaos" and resulting "peace" initially meant dividing specific races and classes of people, locating multifamily dwellings away from single-family dwellings, and ensuring toxic industries were far from residential uses.

While the Supreme Court's 1917 decision in Buchanan v. Warley deemed explicit racial zoning ordinances unconstitutional, facially race-neutral zoning provisions continue to perpetuate segregation by race and income. Countering the historical failures of planning and zoning requires the profession to shift in thinking, methods, training, and practice.

This issue of Zoning Practice summarizes how exclusionary zoning practices reinforce patterns of segregation originally established by illegal racial zoning, racially restrictive covenants, and federal policies in the first half of the 20th century. And it highlights steps Boston and Louisville, Kentucky, have taken to begin to rectify these inequities through zoning reforms.


Page Count
Date Published
Jan. 1, 2022
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Jennifer Raitt
Jennifer (Jenny) Raitt is Executive Director of the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments. In this capacity, she oversees the agency's work in policy areas that span the various disciplines under NMCOG’s purview and fosters connections with elected and appointed officials. She is currently serving on Governor Healey’s Unlocking Housing Production Commission. With extensive experience in leadership roles within local and regional governments, Jenny focuses on enhancing organizational capacity, improving operational efficiency, securing resources, and guiding policy development and implementation. In addition to her professional responsibilities, Jenny frequently shares her expertise on topics such as housing policy, fair housing, conflict resolution, group facilitation, and leadership. Her article, "Ending Zoning’s Racist Legacy," was published in the January 2022 issue of Zoning Practice. Jenny sits on the boards of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association and B’nai B’rith Housing. She is chair of the Legislative and Policy Committee of the APA Board of Directors and past president of TransitMatters. Jenny holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management and Urban Policy from The New School and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Documentary Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has received awards and recognition from various organizations throughout her career.