Saturday, June 06, 2020

Zoning and race in Olympia, WA

Last November I posted about the history of race and housing in Olympia. I tracked local ordinances to outlaw racial discrimination in housing. I also wrote about some housing developments that have racially-based covenants. 

One of the things I noticed in these racially-restrictive covenants is that they always came with another requirement, that the neighborhood also be exclusively single-family homes. Not every restrictive covenant I found had a racial component, but every one with a racial component also required single-family homes. 

In fact, in Strattford Place near where I live, they put the single-family requirement at the top of the list:


Thankfully, racially restrictive covenants are illegal. But, since the 1930s (when racially restrictive covenants were en vogue in Thurston County) single-family zoning has increased in popularity. 

Over the years, we have created zoning laws that restrict housing to (largely) only one type: single-family homes. I want to back up and reiterate this point. In the past, housing in Olympia was much more diverse. But, in the 1970s and 80s, we downzoned much of the city to outlaw anything that wasn't a single-family home.

So, think about this next phase in three steps:
  • We build much of our city in the most expensive housing type.

  • Single-family homes are the most expensive housing type. Do I need to give you a link to back that up?

  • And, in the Pacific Northwest, income is a proxy for race.
So, what happens when you compare race with housing type in Olympia?

This may seem obvious, but the more single-family homes there are in a neighborhood in Olympia, the whiter that neighborhood is. 

Here is my spreadsheet. I took the date from the American Community Survey, specifically tables B25024 and B02001.

Olympia is a massively white city that is slowly growing more diverse over time. But even as the city grows, the white population is concentrated in largely single-family neighborhoods.

Recently, we have tried to allow for more housing types (like duplexes, quadplexes or small apartment buildings) in white, single-family neighborhoods. Fighting these policies is the same thing as saying you would like to preserve the racial nature of single-family neighborhoods.

1 comment:

Private Author said...

Thank you for researching this.