Re: Is zoning the root of all evil?
From: Tim Mensch (
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 09:02:10 -0700 (PDT)
Brian Bartholomew wrote:
Unless some counterexamples appear, I think the claim is solid that
all known urban-ish zoning bans really low-cost housing.
Houston, TX, has no zoning laws, as I understand it. You might try there.

But frankly, I also support the idea of zoning: I wouldn't want to live next to an evolving campground, for fear that it didn't evolve, or at least didn't evolve fast enough at a point when I needed to sell. And yes, I'd also worry about property values, even after everything is built--you know what they say: "Don't own the most expensive house on the block."

You can hate "people like me," if you want, but that means you'll be directing a lot of hatred at a majority of Americans. Since Bush ended up with the popular vote in 2004, I guess you wouldn't be alone in directing hatred at so many, but I digress...

Would I like to see more mixed-use? Sure. Areas zoned for high-density (lower-cost, though likely not tent cities, which bring potential sanitation issues) housing? Absolutely. But as Jessie mentioned in this thread, it's bad zoning laws and inflexible implementation strategies that are the problem, not the concept of zoning. Would you want to move into a neighborhood only to discover that they were going to put in an oil refinery across the street, because there weren't zoning laws to restrict where they could build? Maybe you wouldn't mind, but I sure would, and I'm glad that laws like that exist to protect the rest of us. In cities, laws like this are necessary to facilitate so many people living in such close quarters. Even in Houston, where there are no zoning laws, individual subdivisions have deed restrictions to protect the value of the people who buy in.

If you don't like the laws in cities, then live somewhere else. There do exist areas that housing--and land--can be had for very cheap. I ended up inheriting a piece of land in northern California (near Oregon) that's worth--MAYBE--$5000. It's a half acre, and on the neighboring half-acre parcel sits a nice mobile home. It's in an HOA with a pool and guest quarters (camping trailers, effectively) that HOA members can rent for something like $6/night--I stayed in one myself when checking out the land, and it wasn't a hotel, but it was fine. There are lots of plots available in this particular community, so a group could easily descend on it and create an extended cohousing-group for next to nothing in cost (compared to traditional coho development). And it's not a long drive to the local (small) city, Yreka, so nearby jobs aren't out of the question. Not my cup of tea--I DO want to be closer to a bigger city--so my parcel is for sale, if you want it. There are likely plenty of other communities like this way up in northern California as well, and probably in rural parts of other states all over the country. It all depends on what you want.


Tim Mensch

Currently at Wild Sage (Boulder, CO):

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