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Video: Keynote Address by Sara Bronin

A conversation from the 2022 AARP Livable Communities Housing Workshop about zoning that enables communities to be more equitable, healthy and sustainable

Sara Bronin is a Mexican-American architect and attorney, Cornell University professor, founder of Desegregate Connecticut, creator of the National Zoning Atlas and the leader of a zoning overhaul in Hartford, Connecticut. (In addition to the linked websites, please also see “Zoning by a Thousand Cuts,” a research paper outlining the findings of the Connecticut Zoning Atlas, the first completed statewide zoning map.)  

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The presentation transcript was created by an automated transcription tool. Anyone looking to quote or use information from the event is advised to compare the text to the video recording. 

Mike Watson, AARP: Welcome. Thank you for joining us for Day 2 of the 2022 AARP Livable Communities Workshop - Housing for People of All Ages. For those of you who weren't with us yesterday, I'm Mike Watson, Director of Livable Communities and Enterprise Lead for Livable Communities at AARP. And just like yesterday, I'm here with my colleague, Rodney Harrell, Vice President of Housing and Livable Communities and AARP's Public Policy Institute, where he also serves as the Enterprise Lead for Housing.

Rodney Harrell, AARP: Yes, Mike, it's fantastic to be here again. I was inspired by Day 1, and we'll have another day of engaging discussions, presentations and more today. Similarly to yesterday, you'll see us both periodically throughout the program to help facilitate our conversations and your engagement with our speakers.

Now yesterday we had some deep dive discussions with expert panelists addressing the themes of housing choice and housing design. We also had the great pleasure of hearing from Secretary Marcia L. Fudge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She shared the work that HUD is doing with state and with local leaders to improve housing options for all ages. And finally, we heard from two state leaders: State Senator Justin Wayne of Nebraska, and Director Susan DeMarois of the California Department of Aging. All in all it was an inspiring day, and we're excited to hear from more great folks today. So Mike, what should our viewers know to get started today?

Mike Watson: Thanks, Rodney, I agree, it was an inspiring day, and as you noted, there are a few important things we want to underscore to ensure that today is just as successful as yesterday. Now, if you participated yesterday, you're familiar with the various platforms that we're using, but, if today's your first time watching, I want to go over a few critical elements of the platforms to ensure you'll have the best experience. So first, you should see the instructions for engaging in the Zoom chat, which allows you to send a message to everyone or to specific attendees. And just like yesterday, let's go ahead and get the conversation going there.

So yesterday we asked you to share the biggest challenge your community is facing on housing. Today, can we ask you to drop in the most promising or innovative thing your community has done to improve housing where you live? While we go ahead and get started, I just want to say, I'm really looking forward to reading through these later, so please go ahead and drop them in, and again, we invite you to begin now by sharing the most promising or innovative thing your community has done to improve housing where you live. And of course, beyond that, you can use the chat for conversation throughout the conference. If you also have questions about the Zoom platform, you can enter those in the chat and a Zoom expert will be on hand to help you.

Now that we've covered the Zoom platform, I also want to familiarize you with some of the accessibility features today. Just like yesterday, if you'd like to turn on closed captioning, please click on the CC button to turn on those captions and you should also see a speaker box on your screen with our American Sign Language interpreters, Joi Bannister and Mary Beth Morgan. So with that, of course, we also want to ask folks to please join along with other participants by engaging with us on Twitter using #AARPLivable, and following along on our Twitter handle, @AARPLivable.

And again, just like yesterday, we will be using the platform Slido for polling and to facilitate your questions of our speakers. On your screen again, you should see the instructions for joining Slido. You can either log into your browser and type in and enter the event code "Livable Housing" or you can just pull out your phone and scan the QR code on your screen. We're going to test this out in a second, but before we do, we know that sometimes you'll have to miss portions of the event. But never fear, this entire conference is being recorded and will be posted and shared on, in the coming weeks. Now with that, Rodney, are we ready to test out a poll?

Rodney Harrell: We are. I'm excited and ready to go on these today. We did such a good job yesterday, so let's test this out now with a poll question. And so follow these instructions and make sure that you're on "Polls" tab of the Slido app. So here's that warmup question first. What state or country are you joining us from today? So let's go ahead and enter those in. So if you're not there yet, join us on Slido and tell us what state or country are you joining us from today. So Mike, what kind of places are we seeing up there?

Mike Watson: Well, Rodney, we're seeing a similar situation to yesterday where we have folks from pretty much everywhere across the country joining. Unlike yesterday, we saw a really heavy contingent from California, I think it's because we had Director DeMarois on. Today we're seeing a really heavy contingent from Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, I know folks are looking forward to hearing from Mayor Bibb from Cleveland later on, so really, again, another great spread from across the country reflecting the work that's happening across on housing.

Rodney Harrell: This is great because our housing challenges really are national in scope, so I'm glad to see so many people from all over joining us. And so that gives us all a sense of where we're tuning in from, and how to use the tool. But just like yesterday, we're going to get to my favorite part, using this app with some quizzes throughout the event. So let's go to our first one and see how you all do.

Okay. We know that how land is zoned can be so important in addressing a myriad of housing challenges. In many places, rules and zoning codes prevent businesses from locating in or near residential areas, and they often prevent a mix of housing types from being built. So with all that, our question is: What percentage of residential land in the U.S. is zoned for single-family housing only? Is it 35 percent, 55 percent, 75 percent or 60 percent. Now this is a tough one, so Mike, what are we seeing out there?

Mike Watson: Well, Rodney, we're seeing a pretty heavy response in kind of the plus 50 percent as about 32 percent of folks say that 60 percent or almost two-thirds of zoning in the U.S. is for single-family, and about a third are saying that three-quarters of the residential land in the U.S. is zoned for single family. So really, a belief that a lot of land out there is zoned for single-family use. So can you tell us what's the correct answer?

Rodney Harrell: Well, we're generally right. It's certainly more than half, but it's actually about 75 percent of residential land is zoned for just single-family housing only. So when you do this, that type of zoning can prevent the construction of a variety of housing options, including more affordable types such as duplexes, triplexes, and even accessory dwelling units. Other factors that can be limited in zoning, such a minimum lot sizes and others can mean that single-family homes are the only housing type found in many U.S. neighborhoods. That limits housing opportunities for those who may want to live there or those who may want to move from their current home and stay in their communities. So it's a really big issue, and good job on getting that close to right, everyone.

All right, I think we've got that one down. So, with that, I'd like to hear from our first speaker, Sara Bronin. She's a Mexican-American architect and attorney, a Cornell University Professor, Founder of Desegregate Connecticut, creator of the National Zoning Atlas, and really a leader for a zoning overhaul that's going on in Hartford, Connecticut. Sara spent some time with us earlier and shared some of her important work. After that pre-recorded keynote presentation, she'll also be here live to answer your questions. So before we hear her presentation, I want to remind everyone one more time about the Slido platform.

You'll see there instructions on how to ask a question. You can either go to in your browser and enter that event code, or you can scan the QR code that you're seeing on the screen now. So during the keynote, we need you to ask your questions so that we can address as many as we can after the presentation. So, with no further ado, let's enjoy this incredible keynote from Sara Bronin, which will last about 20 minutes, and Mike and I will see you on the other side.

Sara Bronin: Hi, my name is Sara Bronin and I'm really excited to be here today to talk about Zoning for More Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities. I think we should start by talking about what zoning is. So zoning is the regulation of land uses, structures, and lots, and the way that zoning works, it happens at the local level, and it divides land into districts. So for example, it will separate out commercial and residential property, industrial property, and park land. It will also, as you can see here in the Hartford map, delineate districts by color. So you might see a very colorful zoning map in your own jurisdiction and with each district labeled different for different uses.

But it's not just uses that zoning covers. As I said, it covers structures and lots, it also might cover design particulars. So if you look at buildings and you wonder why is this one five stories tall, and this one only two stories tall? Why does this one have parking? Why is this lot so big? Oftentimes the answer is because of a zoning code requires it.

So here's another image from the zoning code of Hartford, Connecticut, that's where I'm viewing in from today, by the way. And it shows how the downtown zoning districts delineate different characteristics of buildings. So if you're in downtown, you can build up to 38 stories in some areas right here in Hartford. In other parts of the city, in more residential areas, you might only be able to build up to two stories. So different districts are organized and regulated differently, and that, in a nutshell is what zoning is.

Important to our conversation today is a phrase called exclusionary zoning. So what is exclusionary zoning? It is the kind of zoning that keeps affordable housing out of certain neighborhoods. So an exclusionary zoning might take a number of different forms. It might require a house of a certain size. It might require large lots which are very expensive. It might limit the number of people that can live in a house, and it might require lots of different, particular design configurations that make properties and construction more expensive. So exclusionary zoning, because it tends to make the cost of living in a community more expensive, it tends to keep out people of color, low-income communities, seniors on fixed incomes, and others who might not have large chunks of change to live in these more expensive neighborhoods.

For that reason, people say exclusionary zoning promotes segregation and that might mean separation of people by race and ethnicity, it might mean separation of people by income levels, but segregation remains a continuing problem today across the country.

And finally, exclusionary zoning also creates worse health and educational outcomes for people. So because of excluded people from high opportunity neighborhoods, it often reduces their access to those neighborhoods. So remember this phrase, exclusionary zoning because it is something that we'll be talking about a little bit more today.

More generally, zoning impacts equity, the economy, and the environment. Because zoning affects so much of how we use and order our communities, it tells us where we can live, it tells us where we can work, it tells us where we can build factories, how we can get around. It impacts every aspect of our economy and our society. From an equity standpoint, I've talked a little bit about how zoning might have some exclusionary effects. From an economic standpoint, zoning can dictate where businesses can be located, and how big they can be, and what relationship they might be able to have to the street, to residential areas, to recreation.

Zoning also impacts the environment. So those large lot sizes that I mentioned which create more expensive housing, also hurt the environment because what they do is they make it harder for people to get around without cars. In places that have, let's say, a one-acre minimum lot size, you can't walk from one lot to another, from one house or business to another. You have to drive because it makes those places so far apart. So zoning can increase sprawl, which is this outward, low density push that we see in many American communities, and for that reason, it pushes into farmland and forests and take away those natural resources that we need to respond to climate change and to have healthier communities.

So zoning has lots of different impacts, often hidden, often misunderstood, but I just want to close our discussion of what zoning is by saying, it has huge impacts, and I hope maybe to get some questions about this in the Q&A.

Before we move onto the next section of the presentation, I just wanted to mention who writes the zoning rules. So these rules are not written by the federal government, by Congress. These rules are written by people in your community at the local level. So here's a picture of the City of Hartford's Planning Commission in one of my last meetings that I was Chair from a couple of years ago. These are the people who wrote the zoning rules for the city, and implemented them in their decision making.

In your community, your planning and zoning commission, zoning board of appeals, or other land use related bodies are comprised of people who live in your community. Now oftentimes those people tend to be homeowners, they tend to be older. Surveys have showed they tend to be whiter as well. So oftentimes the people writing the rules may not be reflective of the whole diversity of residents in a community. So that might be something for you to check out. Who is writing the rules in your community.

I should note too that the people who serve on these commissions are volunteers. They vary from town to town, and they hear applications on a variety of different land uses, construction, demolition, and so on.

It's my view that zoning has all of these consequences, but we can definitely change zoning for the better, and we can start at the local level when we do that. So you're next question might be, how can we change zoning? What are the mechanisms by which we can do that? And I guess one of the things that I've noticed in my research on zoning is that we don't actually have a lot of information about how zoning works. So we have maybe 30,000 zoning codes all over the country when you think about all the local governments that are out there and everybody who can do zoning, but we don't actually have much information about how they actually zone.

So one of the things I wanted to mention today was a project that will help us to get more information about that, and that is the National Zoning Atlas, which is a project that I'm working on in my lab at Cornell. The aim of this project to translate all of these different zoning codes that all of these local commissions and city councils have written all over the country, and to try to make sure that people can understand them by standardizing the way that they're displayed in an online map.

Right now we have about a dozen seats that are working on the National Zoning Atlas and other states that are underway, and project participants from universities to state agencies to nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups, each all over the country creating their own maps that will integrate into the national project. So if you don't see your state included in this map, send me a note and we'd be happy to figure out how you might participate.

The reason that information is so important can be illustrated by the example in Connecticut. So at the top of the page here, at, you can see the first statewide zoning atlas that was completed. It's the Desegregate Connecticut Zoning Atlas. And Connecticut's pretty manageable. We have about 180 zoning jurisdictions, but the amount of zoning text that was accumulated in that, 32,000 pages was pretty intense. So if you look at this map, this is what you'll see if you go to that website, you can see that the shape of Connecticut, it's all purple right now, but the different gradations of purple, the most purple purple is primarily residential, and then the pinkish is nonresidential, maybe more industrial areas.

If you click in this map, you can see there are lots of different options available, for example, this image shows one family housing, but the Atlas also show if the zone allows for single-family housing, if it allows for accessory apartments, if multi-family housing is allowed, and if multi-family housing is allowed around train stations or other areas where it actually makes the most sense to put multi-family housing, in walkable neighborhoods. And whether it requires minimum lot sizes.

And this is the image that I really wanted to show you which is the end result of all of that information. It shows that 91 percent of Connecticut has single-family zoning. And so single-family zoning is a really interesting and uniquely American tradition. We have zoned, as you can see here in Connecticut, the vast majority of our communities to allow only single-family housing, but that's not necessarily the way people want to live or can afford to live especially when we add on top of that things like large minimum lot sizes that make this housing so expensive.

By contrast, looking at this map, you can see that just 2 percent of land in the state of Connecticut allows for multi-family housing as of right. So go back to that 91 percent image, and then to the 2 percent image, and you see that there is a huge difference in the way that zoning gives us opportunities as to where we live.

So if we zoom into New Haven, you can see as we click through these images, once where single-family is allowed, virtually everywhere around New Haven, and by the way, New Haven is the kangaroo that's in the center of the screen, the kangaroo shaped municipality, and if you go to two family housing, it's a little less, and then when you click on three and four family housing, you get a sense from our mapping project at how concentrated multi-family housing is. It's only allowed in, primarily allowed in New Haven, Central City, in a region surrounded by much wealthier suburbs. And then the health, educational, and segregation outcomes that come from that which include concentration of poverty in New Haven in a way that is very much tied to the way that the area zones.

So these images are just meant to give you a snapshot as to the power of information about zoning, to help us to understand why our communities are built the way they are, and why we have certain health and sustainability and education outcomes within them.

So why did we start this mapping project in the first place, and I wanted to mention here, an advocacy effort that we worked on in Connecticut called Desegregate Connecticut. Here is a snapshot of our sprawling project team as it stood a few months ago. There's many more people to add to this image now. And the many partners that we had in this effort. We had about 80 nonprofit community organizations that are part of our coalition. And we're very proud of that because it includes the architects and the planners, green building advocates, environmentalists, housing advocates, of course, as well as others including developers who see zoning reform as being essential to progress.

We started to gather this information because we realized that people did not understand the links between how their community's zoned and the outcomes that they were seeing in their communities. And with this information, we've produced these reports that you see as well as others about the impacts of zoning on the environment, on the economy, impacts of transit-oriented zoning which is lacking in Connecticut because we do not zone for multi-family housing around transit and train stations like we should. And then we have reports on minimum lot sizes and the impacts of those and other reports too. So I encourage you to visit the Desegregate Connecticut website to check these out because I imagine very, very similar reports could be written about your community too.

So with that in mind, you know, zoning has an impact on fair housing certainly, and the ability of all people, including seniors to access housing that they can afford. But it also has impacts on transportation, on the environment, on our food supply, on our access to nature, on infrastructure decisions, on economic opportunity, and on school segregation.

So now with that in mind, thinking about all of these decisions that are made at the local level, I want to turn next to his question of should we also look beyond the local level? And to think about that, it's important for you to know that zoning comes from state legislatures, so every single state has passed a state zoning enabling act that enables local governments to zone, and those acts are pretty consistent around the country, are what gives the power to cities and towns to engage, and counties to engage in zoning activities. So one place to think about where we might look to make zoning better is state legislatures. And that's, in fact, the approach that we took through Desegregate Connecticut.

These state enabling acts have not really been updated in any real substantive way for the most part since they were first passed in the 1920s. We might also look at the federal government and initiatives that are happening at the federal level to influence local zoning. So for example, President Biden just released an executive order about the supply of affordable housing. And one of the provisions in that executive order is a suggestion that the federal government look at incentive programs that would tie better zoning to grants and maybe infrastructure programs.

So to do that, of course you need a baseline of zoning information, so we're hoping that the National Zoning Atlas will help The White House think about programs that could be set up to encourage better zoning, but just suffice it to say for now that at the state level, the federal level, many different efforts are currently underway to improve zoning.

So finally, in my last couple minutes, I wanted to talk a little bit how you can get involved. So certainly, as I said before, if you are part of a local organization or a group of planners, maybe you're an architect or even just as an ordinary citizen who'd like to get involved in the Zoning Atlas Project, please be in touch. We'd love to seed teams in the states that we haven't currently touched. But also, at maybe a more fundamental level, I would suggest that you start to participate in local government. So it might be that you attend planning and zoning meetings, it might be that you raise your hand to become a volunteer for a commission. You can run, sometimes these positions are appointed by the mayor or city council, sometimes they're elected, and in either case, there's opportunities almost in every town across Connecticut certainly, and I'm sure in your states as well, opportunities for vacancies for alternate positions just to get your foot in the door and actually help to make some of these decisions.

There are also lots of statewide housing groups, so pro-homes groups is what I call them. So of course you have many sort of traditional housing advocate tenants’ rights organizations, housing policy organizations, but increasingly there are also groups like Desegregate Connecticut which really focus on proactive advocacy in, I would say, a more political form, showing up at meetings, writing comments, going to the state legislature, developing and passing state legislative reforms. See if you do have a state group in your area that you might get involved in and, of course, encourage the AARP in your state to get involved in this effort too, because homes, that benefits lots of different housing options benefits the constituency of the AARP is aiming to represent.

You might also get in touch with your state, local, and federal legislators to see where they stand on housing, and to encourage them to look at zoning as something that's really important, and really a building block for where people are housed, but not just housing, but also how our communities work together. So where, even if we could live in the neighborhood, is it accessible to jobs, to services, to recreational opportunities, to schools, and so on. So it's not necessarily just about the housing, but it's also about how all of that is interlinked. And zoning, I would argue, plays an essential and quite overlooked role in this discussion.

So I'm really glad that you joined me today. Appreciate your listening. I'm happy to answer questions about zoning, housing, and equity, and sustainability, and I'd love to connect with you too on Twitter, so here's my handle, and look forward to your thoughts. Thank you.

Mike Watson: Well that was just incredible. I hope you enjoyed that. And now we actually have the great fortune to have Sara Bronin with us here life to answer your questions. Sara, thank you so much for being here with us.

Sara Bronin: Thank you so much for having me.

Mike Watson: Thanks again. If you don't mind, I think we're going to dive right into some of the questions that have been piling up. Your presentation was so impactful for folks. Kind of stoked a lot of curiosity, so we're going to go ahead and jump in. But before we do that, I just want to remind you if you're watching, if you'd like to ask a question, please remember to use the Slido Q&A function. We have several, as I mentioned, piling up here already from our viewers, so we're going to go ahead and turn to our first one. Which, Sara, I think first of all, we saw a lot of questions throughout your presentation wondering how they can get involved with you and the National Zoning Atlas, how they can get their communities and their states as part of that. And I know you just covered that at the end of your presentation, but do you mind just kind of reminding folks the best way that they can get involved with the National Zoning Atlas, the best way they can get their communities or states involved, and how they can reach out to you and your organizations.

Sara Bronin: Sure. So information about the National Zoning Atlas is online at, and there is a contact feature there, so you can email our team directly. The best teams really come from a variety of disciplines, planners, lawyers, architects, and really a mix of those along with graduate students, law students. So when we're looking for teams to build the atlases, if you know of those people in your community, or if you are one yourself, we welcome you to raise your hand or volunteer someone or an organization to be contacted about the project. So very excited that folks are interested and eager to have more states and more teams come on board.

Mike Watson: Fantastic. Thank you for reinforcing that, Sara. And just a reminder, you can volunteer yourself or as Sara said, you can volunteer somebody else. So please go ahead and do that.

Another theme that we're seeing in the questions here, Sara, is around kind of the persistent theme of questions around NIMBY-ism. First of all, can you take a few minutes just to kind of define NIMBY-ism and what that means, and then provide a little bit of guidance for how, in your experience, folks have been able to overcome that NIMBY-ism with kind of increasing permitting for things like accessory dwelling units or completely changing the zoning like you've been able to do in Hartford, Connecticut, and many other communities across the country.

Sara Bronin: So NIMBY refers to Not In My Backyard, and that really takes a say no approach to housing. And we're finding that the best way that the other advocates have put it is YIMBY, Yes In My Backyard, or as we have said in Desegregate Connecticut, taking a pro-homes approach to our advocacy. So we're in favor to fixed accessory dwelling units, we're in favor of what people call missing middle housing between two and four units, and we're also in favor in the right conditions of even bigger apartment builds. So there's a wide variety of housing types that are out there, and a pro-homes approach or a yes in my backyard approach really means trying to enable lots of different kinds of housing for people to meet people's needs.

Mike Watson: Thanks, Sara. Thank you for kind of defining that for us and explaining what it is in the context. And on that note, I think one of the other questions that we're seeing, and one of the things that I think folks who are tuning in today from across the country might hear from folks, are questions around zoning and what does it mean. So one of the questions that we have here is around what zoning can mean beyond more housing, but is it a slippery slope, this person is asking, is it a slippery slope to other development or other types of development that might not be just housing. Can you respond to that question and share any thoughts from your experience?

Sara Bronin: So zoning codes can delineate what kinds of uses are allowed in different geographic neighborhoods within a community. So if the question is really about, will this open the door to commercial or industrial uses. If you start with two or three family housing, well no, not necessarily because a community defines it. On the other hand, as I've argued in my research and will argue in an upcoming book, I think we need to take a more permissive approach to the kinds of things we allow. So, for example, a hundred years ago we use to allow for people to have home occupations in their homes, and what that does is it enables people to afford to live in their homes so they can be an accountant or an attorney or even do some small batch food cooking and manufacturing you know, knitting clothes and things like that. That kind of thing is often prohibited by zoning codes, and it might be time for us to think about even things like that as we think about opening up new opportunities for people to live and also to stay in their neighborhoods.

Mike Watson: Love that, I love the notion of living and staying. As we know, at AARP, and you probably know as well, Sara, roughly 80 percent of folks when they're asked where they want to remain as they age, it's in their home, and it's in their community. So love that. And love the notion of pro-home as well.

As we're looking, there are several more types of questions coming in. One of them is specifically geared toward rural areas. So you showed some really fantastic maps in your representation that kind of showed the spread of single-family zoning, the concentration of duplexes and triplexes. One of these questions that we're seeing now is around rural communities, and how should they kind of think about their zoning vis a vis what you just presented?

Sara Bronin: So rural communities have zoning issues just like urban and suburban communities. One of the things that we've seen is many rural communities that adopted zoning have large minimum lot sizes which in theory are intended to some say allow for the continuation of open space, but really what minimum lot sizes do is it ends up pushing us to build sprawl that ends up taking away agricultural land and taking away forests. We've seen that in Connecticut for sure over the last 25, 30 years. We've seen residential sprawl take the place of productive farmland. And that's something that rural communities are facing as development keeps pushing outward.

There's other non-housing related zoning issues including things like concentrated animal feeding operations, but that's probably outside of the scope of this presentation. But there are lots of zoning issues that are specific to rural communities, and that are worth keeping an eye on.

Mike Watson: Very well said. I think that just underscores a lot of the conversation we've had throughout this workshop that every community of every type can take action on housing, and there are some common solutions with kind of unique approaches.

One of the other questions we're seeing here, Sara, is around environmental kind of concerns and sustainability, picking up off the point you just made. How can we think about kind of zoning from that kind of, maybe out of the rural perspective and more of kind of a dense, urban setting, how do we think about zoning from an environmental perspective, but also from kind of a disaster preparedness and resilience perspective as well?

Sara Bronin: So we, actually I don't think, know enough about how we zone our communities to create a real understanding of climate resilience as it relates to zoning. So we know, for example, that we're probably putting lots of multi-family housing and even single-family and two-family housing in areas that are prone to sea level rise, but since zoning maps don't typically adjust for those kinds of threats and new knowledge about sea level rise, for example, we haven't really, I think reconciled our local land use laws with climate issues.

The other question that's more broadly about zoning and environmental issues, we're just now here to looking at thinking about zoning as a driver of environmental outcomes. So it's not just zoning for too much housing in flood prone areas, but it's also zoning around nodes of transit, things like train stations where we should have more dense development because we've made this investment and those are great places for walkable, mixed use communities. But our zoning does reflect that, and what that means is instead of making walkable communities, we make communities where people have to drive everywhere because we have big minimum lot sizes and overly large houses that are consuming too much energy and too much land. And that's not to say we can't have a variety, but right now, the thumb is on the scales in what we call one-size-fits-all housing in our advocacy in Connecticut, the thumb is on the scales of large, free-standing, single-family, detached housing. And especially for seniors on fixed income, that kind of housing is expensive and is not necessarily environmentally friendly either.

So we want to create more mix across different types of communities so that people can have more options and so that we can create communities that are better for the environment, and for our health, by the way, because a walkable community where you can get from place to place by walking means that you're much more likely to do that, to get out on the street and get some exercise while you're running your errands.

Mike Watson: Fantastic, Sara. That was so wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to not only present earlier, but also be with us today to answer these questions. We have so many coming in, I wish we could get to more, but unfortunately, we're just out of time. So we want to thank you again for joining us, sharing your thoughts, and sharing that call to action for folks from across the country.

With that, I'm going to turn it back over to my colleague, Rodney, here in the studio with us and we'll keep going through. Thank you again, Sara.

Sara Bronin: Thank you.

Rodney Harrell: That was great, Mike. It warms my urban planner heart to have such a great conversation about zoning. So my thanks again to Sara for joining us. 

Page published October 2022

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