Re: affordable housing, zoning and Japan a factual correction
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2020 08:59:28 -0800 (PST)
> On Feb 6, 2020, at 8:05 AM, Liz Ryan Cole via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at] 
>> wrote:
> following this thread on affordable housing I see a comment that implies 
> there is no zoning in Japan.
> In fact Japan does have zoning. It is different, but it is definitely zoning. 
>  Here is one brief discussion (which can also lead you to more information if 
> this piques your interest)
> <>

Better it would be to say not restrictive zoning. The zoning is not designed to 
protect or increase home values. Japanese zoning has "few bulk and density 
controls, limited use segregation, and no regulatory distinction between 
apartments and single-family homes.”

I copied the summary below but there is also a link to the original longer 
article in Market Urbanism:

Planetizen summary:

> "Taken as a whole, Japan's zoning system makes it easy to build walkable, 
> mixed-use neighborhoods," making it markedly different from the prevailing 
> American norm. "Japanese zoning is relatively liberal, with few bulk and 
> density controls, limited use segregation, and no regulatory distinction 
> between apartments and single-family homes.”
> (1) "the U.S. privileges real estate as an investment where Japan does not, 
> incentivizing voters to prohibit new supply with restrictive zoning." Current 
> law encourages homebuyers to treat their property as a way to "build wealth," 
> standing in for a more robust social safety net. In Japan, however, homes 
> have little resale value, fully depreciating in some cases after an average 
> of only 22 years.

> (2) "most public services in the U.S. are administered at the local level, 
> driving local residents to use exclusionary zoning to 'preserve' public 
> service quality," a process that exacerbates segregation by race and class. 
> By contrast, Japan's local public services are standardized on the national 
> level. [Standardized means priced nationally, not locally. people pay the 
> same taxes for utilities without local charges that vary by zoning]
> [3} the U.S. practices "near-total deference" to local land use planning, 
> normalizing the widespread use of discretionary permitting and magnifying the 
> power of special interests. Japan uses an "as-of-right" system of permitting, 
> "meaning that if a project complies with the zoning, it doesn't need to go 
> through a discretionary review process."

The article also ends with:
> "In this sense, Japanese zoning gets close to proper planning: policymakers 
> consider upfront what type of development they would like to permit and 
> where, and when developers come up with a conforming proposal, they hand over 
> the needed permits.”

But in the context of the first 3 points, this zoning would not be influenced 
by protecting or building wealth, local costs for city services, or local land 
use planning. 

Thank you Liz for finding this,
Sharon Villines, Washington DC

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