Everyone wants to live somewhere safe, convenient, and affordable. But those things mean different things to different people. So the marketplace of housing supply, in any given place, should be left to allow for an array of housing options that will meet the diverse needs of its populace. That means residences of different sizes and types, at different price points, that will together accommodate everyone’s needs.

But that is not how our housing marketplace is oriented. In fact, roughly 75% of all residential property in America is zoned to permit only detached single-family dwellings. The consequences of this zoning arrangement are not surprising: it pushes people into single-family homes whether they want them or not. And by prohibiting the creation of suitable alternatives, it keeps out those who cannot afford them and keeps in many who no longer need them. This creates a static, virtually homogeneous housing supply.

This problem does not exist in a vacuum. It was largely created, and then exacerbated by, related prohibitions on all forms of untraditional (i.e., non-single-family) housing—like RVs, tiny houses, multiplexes, townhomes, and traditional apartments and condominiums. And even within the category of detached single-family housing, locales often impose additional, arbitrary requirements that mandate minimum square footage or compel a certain type of architectural style. In some instances, the increased cost burdens posed by these zoning regulations—rules that require construction that is bigger and supposedly prettier—make construction economically infeasible. Together, zoning regulations like these have created a dramatic shortage of suitable housing—one that has led directly to skyrocketing housing prices and a nationwide affordability crisis.

But even where zoning does allow, in theory, for builders to add much-needed inventory, that does not mean they can actually build anything. Nationwide, viable and otherwise legal projects are frequently sunk by interminable permitting delays, environmental reviews, planning commission reviews, and, quite often, a bizarre public-participation process that notoriously tends to invite rancorous community opposition. And sometimes, even where low-income housing has managed to be built, zoning codes are leveraged to push people out.

This is not a system that is working. We need more—and different—housing options. In every other sector of our economy, consumer demand is met with an array of consumer choices at different price points. Housing should be no different. But because government insists on pushing nearly everyone toward a premium product and prohibiting property owners from providing other alternatives, that product has grown virtually unattainable for so many.

IJ’s Zoning Justice Project is taking on this insanity. Through strategic litigation, policy reform, and public advocacy, IJ intends to tackle the root cause of our housing crisis: zoning restrictions that senselessly impair property rights, thereby stifling housing supply and driving up the cost of everyone’s biggest and most important expense.

Chasidy Decker is a native to the Boise area who wants to live in the tiny home that suits her. Represented by the Institute for Justice, she has brought a constitutional lawsuit against Meridian’s irrational ban on living in tiny homes.

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