Equity in Zoning Policy Guide

By American Planning Association



Advocating for Planning-led Zoning Reform That Dismantles Discriminatory Barriers

The nation is short 3.79 million housing units due in part to exclusionary regulations that disproportionately harm disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Planners have the data-driven insights, understanding of broad community impact, and long-term perspective to help decision makers and communities avoid unfair outcomes in all parts of the zoning process and create more diverse housing options in places where they are needed most.

APA's Equity in Zoning Policy Guide positions planners to lead the way on zoning changes at the local, state, and federal level.

This guide prioritizes reversing and alleviating the disproportionate impacts of zoning through 3 aspects of zoning:

  • Rules
  • People
  • Mapping

The Equity in Zoning Policy Guide also provides community planners with solutions that allow communities to boost housing supply, production, and fairness.

Advancing Federal Action on Zoning Reform

APA is working with Congress and the Biden Administration to empower localities and regions to increase and diversify their housing choices for all people.

Find out what actions APA wants Congress to take to unlock locally led reforms

This guide was approved by the APA Delegate Assembly on December 15, 2022, and ratified by the APA Board of Directors on December 20, 2022.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 8, 2023
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

American Planning Association
The American Planning Association provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.

Table of Contents

Introduction and Overview
Goals of the Policy Guide
The Need for Local, State, and National Action
Cross-Cutting Issues That Compound the Impacts of Zoning

What is Equity in Zoning?
Ending Disproportionate Exclusionary Impacts
Three Kinds of Equity in Zoning

The Rules — Equity in Substantive Zoning Regulations
Zoning Districts
Lot and Building Form and Design Standards
Property Use Regulations
Site Development Standards

The People — Equity in Zoning Procedures
Capacity Building
Equity in Advisory and Decision-Making Boards
Writing and Changing the Zoning Rules
Applying the Zoning Rules to Individual Properties
Enforcing the Zoning Rules

The Map — Equity in Zoning Maps
Drawing and Changing the Area-wide Zoning Maps
Making Land Available for Needed Types of Development
Removing Disparities in Neighborhood Health Risk
Removing Disparities in Access to Key Services and Facilities
Removing Historic Segregation through Mapping

Related Policy Guides

References and Further Reading