Ben Carson Takes Aim at Single-Family Zoning

June 21, 2019

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says that red tape over single-family zoning is one of the culprits blocking more affordable housing. Carson, addressing a crowd in Minnesota this week, pointed to Minneapolis as an example of addressing homelessness by eliminating single-family zoning, one of the first major cities in the nation to do so.

Carson says that state and local governments are driving up the costs of housing by having too many regulations. “Our country is facing serious housing affordability challenges,” Carson said. “Too many families can’t afford a home mortgage, and too many Americans face high rent prices … We must do more to increase supply and bring down housing costs by reducing state and local regulations and zoning restrictions.”

In December, the Minneapolis City Council passed an ordinance to remove single-family zoning. By being able to add density to single-family neighborhoods, city officials believe they’ll be able to better address housing affordability head-on and end segregation. Up to 60 percent of Minneapolis had been zoned as single-family only.

“The correlation seems very strong: the more zoning restrictions and regulations, the higher the prices and the more homeless people,” Carson told a crowd. “I don’t think there’s anybody that wants to see homelessness and squalor. We just have to start utilizing the facts and utilizing the evidence to create the policies.”

Carson has flagged government regulations that could be standing in the way of adding more housing. For example, at a conference in May, he took aim at California’s mandate that all new homes must have solar panels by 2020, which he says will further drive up the price of new homes in a state that already has some of the highest home prices in the country.

“Regulations such as density limitations, height restrictions, parking requirements, lengthy permitting and approval processes, and ‘not in my backyard’ … opposition are the primary reason for housing supply restrictions and increased housing costs,” Carson said at a May 17 meeting in Washington, D.C. “HUD is working with local public officials, business leaders and community leaders to mobilize support for smart but significant deregulation at the local level.”