The Inequity of Zoning Regulations

In honour of International Women’s Day, we at icona reflect on how our industry has the opportunity to become more inclusive to women regarding the zoning process. This year’s theme is Embrace Equity – highlighting that it is not enough to provide equal opportunity for all. To be truly inclusive is to recognize an individual’s unique vantage point and needs. It requires equitable action.

From the perspective of the development industry, for years the profession of drafting, mapping, and enforcing zoning regulations has been carried out by men, consequently marginalizing historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Equity in Zoning is a policy guide by the American Planning Association that looks towards a path to inclusion for all.

Reforming zoning policy

In this discussion paper, it highlights the importance of considering equity in zoning policy and development projects. They argue that traditional zoning policies often result in unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, which perpetuate systemic disparities and exclusion. The American Planning Association identifies three areas of opportunity:

  1. Equity in the rules of zoning – what is the impact of the rules in different communities
  2. Equity in the people in zoning – who is involved in the creation of and enforcement of zoning policy
  3. Equity of zoning districts – how zoning maps can lead to segregation

To address this issue, the authors provide practical strategies for planners, policymakers, and community members to incorporate equity considerations into zoning policy and development projects. These strategies include engaging in inclusive community planning, conducting equity assessments, implementing fair housing policies, and using community benefit agreements to ensure that development projects benefit all members of the community.

The authors also emphasize the importance of collaborating with community members and stakeholders to ensure that their needs and perspectives are considered in the planning process. By incorporating an equity lens into zoning policy and development projects, communities can promote a more inclusive and equitable future for all residents.

Equity in practice

The principal of equity is the driving force behind icona hosting a women’s only focus groups for the Anmore South development. At this meeting we heard directly from a variety of women on the current and future needs of the community.  

The article serves as a reminder that zoning policy and development projects have a significant impact on the distribution of resources and opportunities in a community. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize equity and inclusion in the planning process to ensure that all residents have access to a high quality of life.

For more information on how developers can embrace equity, check out our previous icona insights article, The Gendered City: Improving Lives Through Inclusive Design.

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