Chapter 3 Excluding Through Zoning Lines NEW

This chapter makes the hidden history of zoning more visible, and explains how decisions made by elected leaders, real estate developers, and property owners shaped the suburban landscape in metropolitan Hartford. In general, zoning refers to rules over how land can be used, and some policies have progressive goals, such as separating industrial factories from residential neighborhoods. In present-day debates, exclusionary zoning refers to policies that favor expensive single-family home construction that requires large amounts of property, rather than more affordable multi-family homes that use less land per resident. In Connecticut, the origins of exclusionary zoning can be traced back to one suburban town’s attempt to block an urban Jewish grocery from building a store in a residential neighborhood in the early 1920s. When the town’s effort failed, it sparked a political movement to create stronger legal tools to control future real estate development and exclude types of property (and people) deemed as undesirable neighbors. Exclusionary zoning laws intentionally made it more expensive to build homes in suburban neighborhoods, which effectively deterred lower-income people from living there. Unlike other discriminatory barriers of this era—such as mortgage redlining, restrictive covenants, and segregated public housing—exclusionary zoning did not directly refer to race, religion, or nationality. Instead, exclusionary zoning cleverly carved up suburban neighborhoods using minimum-land rules that segregated residents by their wealth. In this way, exclusionary zoning became a more sophisticated tool of housing discrimination that largely resisted the fair-housing legislation of the 1960s-70s civil rights era, and continues to divide Connecticut residents into the present day.