Beyond Use Zoning: The Role of Deregulation in Housing Equity

Zoning Practice — May 2022

By John Zeanah, AICP


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Use zoning, or the component of zoning that establishes permissible uses, is only one method to affect housing density, equity, and choice. Acknowledging the legacy of exclusionary policies must go beyond use zoning to effectively lead to change. After all, it is the limitation on "density of population," not "location and use" the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act advised would "make possible the creation of one-family residence districts."

There are various ways local development regulations restrict population density and constrain the supply of housing choices. Looking beyond single-family use zoning to consider how loosening other development regulations can encourage a variety of forms and patterns of housing. Zoning restrictions, such as accessory use standards and bulk regulations, and related codes, such as building codes, affect housing choices, including those in the "missing middle."

This issue of Zoning Practice explores how accessory use standards, dimensional standards, and building codes affect opportunities to build missing middle housing. And it highlights how Memphis and other cities are looking beyond use zoning to advance goals of housing equity in reforming codes and policies.


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Date Published
May 1, 2022
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American Planning Association

About the Author

John Zeanah, AICP
JOHN ZEANAH, AICP is the Director of the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development. In this role, he leads a cross-functional agency responsible for planning, zoning, and construction permitting throughout the largest county in Tennessee. Among his accomplishments, John led the development and adoption of the Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan, the City’s first comprehensive plan in 40 years and winner of the American Planning Association’s Daniel Burnham Award of Excellence for a Comprehensive Plan in 2020 and a Charter Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism in 2021. John has also led the city and county’s housing policy plan, climate action and resilience plans, and improvements to development review and permitting. John holds a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College and a Master of City and Regional Planning from the University of Memphis.