LAND USE & ZONING
In 1949, the United States Congress declared that a primary goal of government was to provide "a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family."Housing Act of 1949, Pub. L. No. 81-171, Section 2, 63 Stat. 413 (1949). A quarter of a century later Congress added to this mandate with the passage of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 which had a goal to reduce "the isolation of income groups within communities and geographical areas and the promotion of increase in the diversity and vitality of neighborhoods through the spatial deconcentration of housing opportunities for persons of lower income and the revitalization of deteriorating or deteriorated neighborhoods."Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, Pub L. No. 93-383, Title I, Section 104 Unfortunately, these goals have gone unrealized for many people, especially the disabled, the poor and minorities.
The powers of local governments are too often used to maintain populations of people who look alike. Zoning ordinances, minimum lot and floor space requirements, maximum density limitations and a host of other land use controls have served local communities' need for homogeneity by limiting or pricing out certain types of housing.
There are many ways that restrictions can increase the price and reduce the supply of housing. For example, restrictions can increase the price of an acre of land, allow fewer units per acre, limit the number of units that can be built, create approval delays that add to carrying costs; discourage new developers from entering the market, thereby allowing existing developers to charge higher prices; and induce developers to build for higher-income markets. Several attempts have been made to quantify how much local opposition and exclusionary techniques add to the cost of new housing. Housing prices in communities that make aggressive attempts to discourage the construction of affordable housing can be as much as 50% higher than for comparable units in nearby communities that do not make such attempts, but more typically, the margin is between 10 and 20% The magnitude of the difference will depend on several variables, such as the demographic composition of the community, the nature of the controls imposed, the growth controls of surrounding communities, and other factors affecting supply and demand in the housing market in question.
Nor do these zoning and land use controls serve any other purpose than to exclude certain types of people. In 1968, the Douglas Commission appointed by President Johnson, asserted: "In short, although the basic justification for zoning is to protect the overall public good, this often appears to be the last consideration as zoning is now practiced." a second Presidential Commission asserted zoning "tends to reduce the supply of new housing and raise prices or rents especially for those least able to pay."
This has not been a priority in the past decade. However, this NIMBYism was challenged by HAI in Buckeye Community Hope Foundation v. City of Cuyahoga Falls, 970 F. Supp. 1289 (N.D. Ohio 1997, 209 F.Supp.2d 719 (N.D. Ohio 1999) rev'd 263 F.3d 627 (6th Cir. 2001)rev'd in part and vacated in part,123 S.Ct. 1389, 155 L.Ed.2d 349,(2003) HAI's attorneys argued in the U.S. Supreme Court early IN 2003 this case. The decision shows that the federal court may not be the judicial forum to bring this litigation. Instead we may need to litigate in the Ohio courts. Buckeye Community Hope Found. v. City of Cuyahoga Falls,81 Ohio St. 3d. 559; 692 N.E. 2d 997 on rehearing rev'd 82 Ohio St. 3d 359. The history of referendums on multi-family housing development tend to be one-sided in their results. Voters usually reject public, subsidized or multifamily housing, which they fear will cause undesirable changes in local social status, physical environment or fiscal burdens. Southern Alameda Spanish Speaking Org. v. City of Union City, 424 F.2d 291, 292 (9th Cir. 1970) (referendum blocked subsidized multifamily housing); Ranjel v. City of Lansing, 417 F.2d 321 (6th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 980 (1970) (same). It is time for cooperative action to deliberately create equality and integration in housing. Hopefully, HAI's involvement in the Buckeye decision will give us opportunities to work with realtors, landlords and developers to achieve the needs of affordable and equal housing for everyone.