by Sam Hieb
I was listening to NPR’s Marketplace piece probing bans on single family residential zoning in Minneapolis and the entire state of Oregon and a familiar name came up not once, but twice—Charlotte.
Turns out Charlotte was part of a big NYT story on cities who are beginning to “question an American ideal: a house with a yard on every lot.” Horrors. And indeed Charlotte city planners are seriously studying a ban on single family residential zoning. The reasoning may–or may not–surprise you:
Charlotte officials, historians and others say the goal is to undo more than 70 years of zoning policies that helped perpetuate segregation.
When Charlotte’s first zoning ordinance was written just after World War II, exclusive, all-white neighborhoods like Myers Park were zoned for single-family houses. But African Americans were barred from purchasing homes in those areas due to policies like deed restrictions. Meanwhile, African American neighborhoods tended to be zoned for industrial uses.
Those zoning designations still largely define where black and white Charlotte residents live today.
“Zoning has been historically used as a way to create inequality,” said City Council member Larken Egleston. “It was the tool that got us at least in part to the place where we are now. It’s got to be one of the tools that we use to try to correct the wrongs of the past.”
Paraphrasing Antiplanner (who by the way has an interesting piece on on another Queen City fetish–transit-oriented development)— this is yet another instance of city planners’ fantasies of how they think people should live conflicting with the way people really want to live. I know a lot of people–both white and African-American–who share the same ‘American ideal’-some space between them and their neighbors.