The National Zoning Atlas

The National Zoning Atlas constitutes a collaborative initiative aimed at digitizing, elucidating, and facilitating access to approximately 30,000 U.S. zoning codes. This endeavor was established under the leadership of Professor Sara Bronin of Cornell University, and it has engaged the expertise of more than 300 zoning and geospatial analysts.

The overarching objective of the National Zoning Atlas is to enhance public comprehension of zoning, fostering wider involvement in land use determinations, identifying avenues for zoning reform, and mitigating the prevalent information asymmetry that disproportionately favors land speculators, institutional investors, and homeowners over socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. The initiative seeks to facilitate cross-jurisdictional comparisons, illuminate regional and statewide trends, and fortify national planning efforts about housing production, transportation infrastructure, and climate response.

The project has relied on manual reviews of zoning code texts and their corresponding maps, with a complimentary how-to guide available for download. Funding from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development - Community Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program is being utilized to automate this process, expediting the mapping of the estimated 30,000 localities employing zoning.

The foundational operational principles guiding this project are:

  1. Deploy data for the public good
  2. Evaluate and adapt methods and approaches
  3. Collaborate broadly
  4. Cultivate up-and-coming talent
  5. Approach the challenge with the belief that it is a resolvable problem, worthy of a solution

Participation in the project predominantly comprises individuals from academic institutions, nonprofits, and government agencies, with students playing a crucial role. Private partners may contribute to specific geographic teams or provide data.
Source: the National Zoning Atlas

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