There is a virtual consensus among housing policy experts, economists—and even Presidents of the United States, across the political spectrumÍ—that major reform of zoning and other land use regulations is needed in order to combat exclusionary zoning and other economically exclusionary housing practices.. (For more about that virtual consensus, please click on EMERGING CONSENSUS ON REGULATORY BARRIERS TO HOUSING AFFORDABILITY.)

As discussed on the Home Page, the Equitable Housing Institute (EHI) has drafted an Economic Fair Housing Act (EFHA) that would ban economically exclusionary and discriminatory housing regulations comprehensively. Such a statute could be enacted by any state, or by the federal government (in a somewhat different form). The current draft of a federal version of that statute is the Discussion Draft Economic Fair Housing Act (EFHA), annotated (September 2023), posted at Draft EFHA, Sept. 2023.

EHI also has posted numerous reports on aspects of that proposed statute. The most recent reports (which also are mentioned on the Home Page) are:

  • "Missing middle" housing and the Economic Fair Housing Act, posted at Missing middle and EFHA. Among the many problems that the proposed Economic Fair Housing Act (EFHA) would counteract are unreasonable restrictions on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and other multi-unit residential lots (“missing middle” options) in American neighborhoods. The “zoning out” of those forms of housing in single-family neighborhoods generally is among the vast array of unwarranted regulatory restrictions that have led to this nation’s crisis-level housing affordability problems.
  • Can the vast range of regulatory barriers to housing opportunity be deterred by an Economic Fair Housing Act (EFHA)? (June 2023), posted at Vast range of RBHOs v. EFHA. The frequent use by local governments of a variety of regulatory tools to thwart needed housing development has resulted in long-mounting crisis of housing shortages and hyperinflation in housing costs across America. This report shows how the EFHA could provide a comprehensive solution. 
  • How an Economic Fair Housing Act would affect minority group members (June 2023), posted at EFHA and minority group members. The EFHA would open the door to much greater housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Americans, including the disproportionate share who are minority group members. Among those opportunities would be much-improved chances to live in high-opportunity areas. However, there also would be challenges, such as possible displacement of some low- and moderate-income people due to gentrification in certain areas. EHI's report focuses on the advantages and challenges of an EFHA for minority group members. 
  •  Supermajority vote requirements and related barriers to adding needed housing, posted at Supermajority rules and related housing barriers. Many states, however, do not allow local governments to approve rezonings by a mere majority vote of the local governing body, if the owners of a few nearby parcels file a formal “protest petition” challenging the rezoning application. Usually, a formal protest by the owners of 20% or more of the real estate within a few hundred feet of the land in question is sufficient to defeat the rezoning, unless a supermajority of the local governing body approves it. The most common supermajority requirement is three-quarters of the members of that body. The EFHA would be a powerful tool in curbing such onerous restrictions on the addition of needed housing. 
  • Subregional jobs-housing balance and regulatory barriers (April 2023), posted at Subregional JHB & EFHA. Because regulatory barriers interfere with the housing supply increasing sufficiently in communities with ample, good-paying jobs, many people who work in those communities cannot find suitable housing opportunities within a reasonable commuting distance. Regulatory  barriers also cause serious environmental problems by forcing too much new development to sprawl into outlying areas, far from people's jobs. The EFHA would lead to much greater progress toward sufficient housing in employment hubs.
  • Prohibiting exclusionary housing practices by non-governmental officials authorized by law to restrict housing rights (April 2023), posted at: Non-gov'tal-housing-rules-EHI-4-2023. By 2020, more than 74 million Americans were estimated to be living under an association of homeowners (“community association” or "HOA"). Those associations generally have detailed authority over land uses and even matters of aesthetics in their neighborhoods. Single-family housing developments with HOAs can, and often do, ban structures on a lot other than one single family dwelling, and perhaps a garage or carport for cars. Those restrictions generally are binding on both the original property owners and all subsequent owners, unless a law is enacted by the local, state or federal government that is inconsistent with the ban. The EFHA would clarify which restrictions by HOAs and other non-governmental officials on housing rights are binding. 

As background—EHI issued a preliminary report in December 2019 containing its initial recommendations regarding a new statute that would ban economically exclusionary and discriminatory housing regulations comprehensively. To access that report, please click on TOWARD A COMPREHENSIVE BAN ON EXCLUSIONARY HOUSING PRACTICESIn November 2020, EHI drafted more extensive provisions toward a federal legislative proposal on the subject, with explanatory comments. To access that document, please click on ECONOMIC FAIR HOUSING ACT DRAFT PROVISIONS--NOV. 2020

EHI’s December 2019 report summarizes some major problems created by economically exclusionary housing practices. For example, they:

  • Play a primary role in Americans’ mounting problems with housing affordability,
  • Seriously aggravate the increasing residential isolation of Americans into “rich” and “poor” neighborhoods—cutting against efforts to reduce residential isolation of minority groups (most members of which are on the lower half of the income and wealth spectrums); and
  • Interfere with interstate commerce and the nation’s economic growth because, for example, their use in wealthier states adversely affects mobility and productivity among low- and moderate-income Americans in other states as well.

The statute that EHI envisions would expand protections against housing discrimination beyond those in the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.) which is the basic, federal housing discrimination statute. That statute does not address economic discrimination generally. It addresses discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, and national origin.

EHI’s report concludes that the approach of the Federal Fair Housing Act shows some promise as a model for a comprehensive ban on exclusionary housing practices. Studies show that since creation of that statute in 1968, racial isolation in housing—notably of African-Americans from whites—has been decreasing steadily and substantially in each decade, in the nation overall.

Among the strengths of that statute are its specific definitions of prohibited conduct, and its strong enforcement provisions. The statute may be enforced through legal action by the Justice Department, and by victims of violations, as well as by the U.S. Dep’t of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A variety of strong remedies are authorized where violations are found.

EHI also analyzes the prominent, time-tested, state statutory approaches in Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Oregon. Each of those statutes introduced bold, innovative and helpful features, and each of them has been credited with leading to substantial increases in the amount of housing in the state that is affordable to low- and moderate-income people.

However, those state statutes have not been able to prevent worse-than-average housing affordability problems in their states. None of those statutes includes an outright ban on exclusionary housing practices.

Thus, none of those statutes appear to offer a sufficiently reliable model for minimizing those practices comprehensively, statewide or nationwide. Nor do any other state statutes of which EHI is aware make a comprehensive ban on exclusionary housing practices unnecessary. Again, to access EHI's December 2019 report, please click on TOWARD A COMPREHENSIVE BAN ON EXCLUSIONARY HOUSING PRACTICES.