The 1968 Fair Housing Act required local government recipients of federal money to take meaningful actions to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). Current fair housing analysis requirements are copious but do not request an assessment of how land use policies affect the potential for neighborhood integration. A recent California law requires local governments to include AFFH analysis in existing planning processes, and state guidelines encourage the measurement of the spatial distribution of planned sites for low-income housing with respect to opportunity. We propose and evaluate a fair housing land use score (FHLUS) that measures whether local governments’ land use policies promote inclusion across neighborhoods. We illustrate the FHLUS by examining zoning and housing plans for three municipalities in California that differ in terms of neighborhood variation in incomes. In all three cases, we found that municipal zoning and housing plans exacerbated patterns of segregation rather than reversed them. Our metric is more precise than existing approaches, but all measures of this phenomenon will be less useful in smaller, more homogenous jurisdictions. The analysis raises important questions about the geographic scale and outcome measures for AFFH analysis and expectations for municipalities of different sizes and levels of diversity.

Our metric is a useful tool for advocates and planners at all levels of government. We recommend the federal government consider incorporating it into the AFFH toolkit and practicing planners employ the measure to analyze local zoning and investment decisions. The Technical Appendix is a step-by-step guide, including an Excel formula.

Moira O’Neill et al., Do Land Use Plans Affirmatively Further Fair Housing?, Journal of the American Planning Association (2023).