One of the most substantial sets of powers that local governments have to create change is zoning and land use regulations. Zoning can be used to significantly improve urban quality of life and help eliminate spatial and structural inequalities. In many localities, however, zoning is instead over-restricting building and housing types, accelerating gentrification hotspots, forcing people to drive, creating urban heat islands, and compounding other health and environmental risks. So land use policy becomes a tool that reinforces cycles of disinvestment, increases climate and financial risk, and outlaws various types of self-sufficiency or uses deemed inappropriate for a city. Conscientious and inclusive zoning regulations, eco-districts and land use policies can counter these historic and continuing injustices like redlining and disruptive highway construction to build vibrant and resilient communities.
Zoning and land use shape many influential aspects of urban life: neighborhood density, the diversity of housing options, the placement of public amenities, the aesthetics of a community, housing affordability requirements, parking availability, whether residents can grow their own food, place-based safety, suitable locations for businesses and industry, determine the location and kinds of structural climate adaptations and resilience measures needed, and regulate the location of environmental hazards. Local GNDs can ensure cities use these powers to create equitable, welcoming, resilient, diverse, and accessible communities.