New Tool Reveals America’s Zoning Problem

The National Zoning Atlas’ maps demonstrate the extent of prohibitive regulations like minimum lot sizes and single-family zoning. Learn more.

By Sam Gilboard
May 10, 2022
Updated May 10, 2022
2 minutes

On May 3, 2022, researchers at Cornell University unveiled the National Zoning Atlas, an aspirational project aimed at depicting key aspects of zoning codes in an online, user-friendly map. Currently, the project reflects a comprehensive zoning map for the entire state of Connecticut with similar maps under development for Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and, eventually, the rest of the United States. These maps demonstrate the staggering extent of prohibitive regulations like minimum lot sizes and single-family zoning. 

"Once we get a critical mass of jurisdictions incorporated into the National Zoning Atlas, we'll be able to unlock tremendous, unprecedented secondary research in housing, education, transportation, environmental policy, climate response, economic development, and much more,” said Sara Bronin, the director of the project, in a press release.

There is an overwhelming consensus that restrictive land-use regulations are one of the primary causes of America’s affordable housing shortage. The National Apartment Association’s (NAA) Barriers to Apartment Construction Index indicates that community opposition, land costs and availability and restrictive zoning are some of the largest inhibitors to new housing development. The National Zoning Atlas will be an important policy tool for providing substantive information on the nation’s zoning laws.

NAA supports policy solutions that encourage the elimination of discriminatory land-use policies and regulatory barriers to development. The Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act (S.1614 and H.R. 3198) is federal legislation that would encourage municipalities to identify and reduce exclusionary land-use policies, promote thoughtful zoning and development strategies and report on efforts to increase housing development.

To learn more about land-use policy, please contact Sam Gilboard, NAA’s Senior Manager of Public Policy.