Single-Family Zoning and Race: Evidence from the Twin Cities

Abstract: A new wave of activism and research has renewed critiques of single-family zoning as a means of racial exclusion. To test this argument, we assemble digital zoning data covering the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area and quantify the relationship between different types of residential zoning and racial and ethnic shares of neighborhood populations. We find that a neighborhood zoned for multifamily housing has a non-White population share that is 21 percentage points higher than that of an equally situated single-family neighborhood. By contrast, we find relatively modest differences in racial shares across neighborhoods with differing minimum lot sizes. We argue that these patterns are explained by racial homeownership differences, which are especially severe in the Twin Cities. Policymakers pursuing racial integration should take into account racial differences in tenure and ensure that housing types suited for both owner and rental occupancy are allowed in all neighborhoods.

JEL codes: R52, J15, R21

Keywords: zoning, middle housing, segregation, Black homeownership, homeownership gap, housing tenure, rental housing, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, Minnesota