Zoning to Improve Health and Promote Equity

Zoning Practice — March 2015

By Elizabeth Whitton, AICP


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From its inception, the explicit intent of zoning was to promote healthy living conditions by physically separating housing from the harmful effects of heavy industrial or commercial uses. In retrospect, we now know that a rigid adherence to the ideal of separated uses has created sprawling development patterns and contributed to a rise in health disparities and chronic disease.

Development regulations govern all types of uses, but in terms of promoting health, regulations that affect the location, type, and design of housing are especially important. As the space where people spend a significant portion of their day, housing and the immediate environs have a significant influence on community health.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses how communities can use zoning and other development regulations to promote healthy living environments. It highlights a number of potential regulatory changes in support of reducing health disparities by increasing affordable housing options and improving access to care.


Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2015
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Elizabeth Whitton, AICP
Elizabeth Whitton, AICP is a Transportation Planner at MetroPlan Orlando where she leads the regional transportation planning agency’s transit, health, and strategic planning initiatives. She works with federal, state, and local partners to ensure Central Florida’s transportation system supports healthy, inclusive, and economically vibrant communities. Prior to joining the MetroPlan Orlando team, Elizabeth worked in Washington, DC conducting policy research related to the built environment’s impact on public health. She has a Bachelors degree from the University of Alabama, a Masters degree from Florida State University, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.