Friday, April 27, 2007

Zoning Laws (Part 4) Segregation by Class

Read entire series here.

I live in the fourth largest, and the most expensive housing market in the US - the San Francisco Bay Area. Since zoning laws essentially mandate a minimum level of wealth necessary to live in any given community, each community has its own threshold. Generally, the closer to the financial center of the area, the more expensive the housing because that's where the best jobs are.

But since zoning laws create an artificial threshold for living in any given community, job holders in the wealthier communities must live further away in outlying communities. Back in the 90's, the Bay Area's more upscale suburban cities began to discover that most of their "essential" city employees (i.e. police, fire, parks maintenance, etc.) weren't residents of those cities. They lived elsewhere. That's because it was impossible for these people to live in those cities on the salaries they received - the artificially imposed housing prices were too high. And since the only candidates for these positions had to live far away in less expensive communities, it became much more difficult to fill these positions.

Imagine passing a law that mandates the segregation of people according to class. A huge uproar among the people would occur. Such a thing would be unthinkable in America today. Although completely unintended, this is exactly what zoning laws accomplish.

Part 3 . . . . . . . . Part 5

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