zoning book roundup

Image credit: Neal Gorenflo

Team Shareable has focused our editorial energies over the last couple months on how land wasn’t shared well in the U.S. and could be shared better. Neal Gorenflo, Shareable’s executive director, spent months putting together a timeline of policies that helped create a separate and unequal America, the most extensive one we know of online. 

Along the way, Gorenflo collected a list of books that helped him piece together the timeline or just put U.S. land use and housing policy in a larger socio-economic context. We’re sharing this list in case you want to go further down this rabbit hole than our series (which is included in the list in ebook form). We came to believe that ambitions for sharing in cities can only go so far if past inequities aren’t confronted and taken into account when developing solutions. 

As is usual for our book roundups, these books are either new, new to us, or one of ours. If you have suggestions for books to include, let us know at info@shareable.net. Below are summaries excerpted from each book’s website:

How Racism Shaped the Housing Crisis & What We Can Do About ItHow Racism Shaped the Housing Crisis & What We Can Do About It- Shareable

Our very latest ebook is hot off the presses, so to speak. This free ebook is a compilation of all of the articles in our series: “How Racism Shaped the Housing Crisis & What We Can Do About It.” We explore the history of land use and housing policy in the United States, solutions to the housing crisis with a focus on how to increase equity, and conversations we’ve hosted about it. Download our free ebook here

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America– Richard Rothstein

In The Color of Law (published by Liveright in May 2017), Richard Rothstein argues with exacting precision and fascinating insight how segregation in America—the incessant kind that continues to dog our major cities and has contributed to so much recent social strife—is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state, and federal levels.

Segregation By DesignSegregation by design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities- Jessica Trounstine

Segregation by Design draws on more than 100 years of quantitative and qualitative data from thousands of American cities to explore how local governments generate race and class segregation. Starting in the early twentieth century, cities have used their power of land use control to determine the location and availability of housing, amenities (such as parks), and negative land uses (such as garbage dumps). The result has been segregation – first within cities and more recently between them. Documenting changing patterns of segregation and their political mechanisms, Trounstine argues that city governments have pursued these policies to enhance the wealth and resources of white property owners at the expense of people of color and the poor.

Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation – Sonia A. Hirt

In Zoned in the USA, Sonia A. Hirt argues that zoning laws are among the important but understudied reasons for the cross-continental differences. Hirt shows that rather than being imported from Europe, U.S. municipal zoning law was in fact an institution that quickly developed its own, distinctly American profile. A distinct spatial culture of individualism, founded on an ideal of separate, single-family residences apart from the dirt and turmoil of industrial and agricultural production, has driven much of municipal regulation, defined land-use, and, ultimately, shaped American life.

SegregationSegregation: A Global History of Divided Cities- Carl H. Nightingale

When we think of segregation, what often comes to mind is apartheid South Africa, or the American South in the age of Jim Crow—two societies fundamentally premised on the concept of the separation of the races. But as Carl H. Nightingale shows us in this magisterial history, segregation is everywhere, deforming cities and societies worldwide. Starting with segregation’s ancient roots, and what the archaeological evidence reveals about humanity’s long-standing use of urban divisions to reinforce political and economic inequality, Nightingale then moves to the world of European colonialism. It was there, he shows, segregation based on color—and eventually on race—took hold; the British East India Company, for example, split Calcutta into “White Town” and “Black Town.” As we follow Nightingale’s story around the globe, we see that division replicated from Hong Kong to Nairobi, Baltimore to San Francisco, and more.

Redesigning the American Dream: Gender, Housing, and Family Life- Dolores Hayden

Americans still build millions of dream houses in neighborhoods that sustain Victorian stereotypes of the home as “woman’s place” and the city as “man’s world.” Urban historian and architect Dolores Hayden tallies the personal and social costs of an American “architecture of gender” for the two-earner family, the single-parent family, and single people. Many societies have struggled with the architectural and urban consequences of women’s paid employment: Hayden traces three models of home in historical perspective—the haven strategy in the United States, the industrial strategy in the former USSR, and the neighborhood strategy in European social democracies—to document alternative ways to reconstruct neighborhoods.

One Hundred Years of Zoning and the Future of CitiesOne hundred years of zoning and the future of cities- edited by Amnon Lehavi

This book reconsiders the fundamental principles of zoning and city planning over the course of the past one-hundred years, and the lessons that can be learned for the future of cities. Bringing together the contributions of leading scholars, representing diverse methodologies and academic disciplines, this book studies core questions about the functionality of cities and the goals that should be promoted via zoning and planning. It considers the increasing pace of urbanization and growth of mega cities in both developed and developing countries; changing concepts on the role of mixed-use and density zoning; new policies on inclusionary zoning as a way to facilitate urban justice and social mobility; and the effects of current macrophenomena, such as mass immigration and globalization, on the changing landscape of cities.

Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, and City Planning in New York city- edited by Tom Angotti and Sylvia Morse 

Gentrification and displacement of low-income communities of color are major issues in New York City and the city’s zoning policies are a major cause. Race matters but the city ignores it when shaping land use and housing policies. The city promises “affordable housing” that is not truly affordable. Zoned Out! shows how this has played in Williamsburg, Harlem and Chinatown, neighborhoods facing massive displacement of people of color. It looks at ways the city can address inequalities, promote authentic community-based planning and develop housing in the public domain.


This post is part of our Fall 2019 editorial series on land use and housing policy challenges and solutions. Download our latest FREE ebook based on this series: “How Racism Shaped the Housing Crisis & What We Can Do About It.”

Or take a look at the other articles in the series: