Zoning Police Continue To Find New Ways To Punish the Poor
Some people live together by choice. Others share space out of necessity. Lack of affordable housing forces many families to adjust, but the zoning police remain rigid in Cobb County, Georgia.
Even during a nationwide housing crisis, code enforcers northwest of Atlanta continue to enforce a narrow vision of suburbia. One rule limits overnight parking based on property size. Families can have one car for every 390 square feet of living space, which effectively prevents more than two vehicle owners from living together in a 1,000-square-foot unit.
Teen drivers are out of luck. So are adult children, college students, mothers-in-law, and any guest who stays longer than one week. The city does not concern itself with individual circumstances, nor does it care if vehicles remain in good condition with current tags. It counts newer models and clunkers the same.
Cobb County resident Austin Childs calls the policy discriminatory in a change.org petition. “This code disproportionately affects lower income families,” he writes. “Many young people are living at home longer than ever before due to the insane cost of living. Help me get this law changed.”
While he waits for signatures, the zoning police in other jurisdictions are moving forward with rigid rules of their own that also punish lower-income families disproportionately. Common restrictions include occupancy caps, prohibitions on multifamily housing, and building height limits. Officials in Shawnee, Kansas, even criminalize roommates: A 2022 ordinance makes it illegal for friends to split rent in single-family residential zones.
Besides being elitist and cruel, policies like these are unconstitutional. The Institute for Justice, where we both work, represents three clients who recently fought back with separate lawsuits.
The first case is unfolding in Calhoun, Georgia, where officials told Cindy Tucker in 2021 that her nonprofit organization, Tiny House Hand Up, could not build 600-square-foot homes on its own land. City zoning laws only allow the construction of larger houses.
Article from Reason.com