Cracking the Zoning Code


Zoning basics

What is zoning?

How does zoning relate to housing production and affordability?

Why does zoning matter for racial equity?

Key elements of zoning

Zoning is a series of interlocking parts

Base zoning

Flexibility measures

Requirements, exactions, and incentives



The potential of reforms

How zoning reforms can improve housing affordability and racial equity

Revising the zoning code to promote racial equity

Increasing housing supply while preventing displacement

Breaking down exclusionary barriers to housing

Mitigating urban decline

Addressing housing challenges in rural, low-density communities

Where to learn more



Cracking the Zoning Code

Understanding local land-use regulations and how they can advance affordability and equity

Yonah Freemark, Lydia Lo, Eleanor Noble, and Ananya Hariharan

May 2022

Cracking the Zoning Code


This feature was funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. We are grateful to them and to all our funders, who make it possible for Urban to advance its mission. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Funders do not determine research findings or the insights and recommendations of our experts. More information on our funding principles is available here. Read our terms of service here.

We would like to thank Solomon Greene, Monique King-Viehland, Noah Kazis, Corianne Scally, and Andrew Trueblood for their valuable insights in reviewing this feature.

Project credits


Allison Feldman


Luis Melgar


Emily Peiffer and Irene Koo


John Wehmann