Zoning laws are found in virtually every municipality in the United States, affecting land use, lot size, building heights, density, setbacks, and other aspects of property use.


NAR Library & Archives has already done the research for you. References (formerly Field Guides) offer links to articles, eBooks, websites, statistics, and more to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require a password.

Zoning Basics

How not to zone out on zoning, (Public Management, Jan./Feb. 2013) E

Understanding zoning ordinances, (Public Management, Nov. 1999) E

Understanding zoning, licensing, and permits, (Dummies Blog, 2012)

Zoning, (Wikipedia)

Impacts of Zoning

The Effect of Downzoning for Managing Residential Development and Density, (Land Economics, May 2016) E

How Zoning Regulations Impact City Development, (Market Realist, Jan. 2016)

Zoning for Sustainability: A Review and Analysis of the Zoning Ordinances of 32 Cities in the United States, (Journal of the American Planning Association, Summer 2014) E

Housing costs, zoning, and access to high-scoring schools, (The Brookings Institution, Apr. 2012)

Balancing the ‘zoning budget’: Local governments need to consider the long-term effects of their land use decisions, (Regulation, Fall 2011) E

Measuring the Property-Value Effects of Local Land Use and Preservation Referenda, (Land Economics, Feb. 2010) E

Unintentional redlining? Zoning ordinances and the living wage, (Real Estate Issues, Fall 2007) E

Zoning Board​s & Legal Issues

Overlooking Zoning, Codes Leads to Higher Costs, Value Impairment, (Real Estate Finance & Investment, June 2014) E

ABCs of local land use and zoning decisions, (Florida Bar Journal, Jan. 2010) E

Buyer Beware: Today's distressed market puts a premium on due diligence, (CIRE Magazine, May-June 2009)

Contemprorary zoning conflicts: An evolving landscape presents new challenges, (Commercial Investment Real Estate, Jan./Feb. 2012)

How to research local zoning laws, (eHow.com)

Zoning Ref​orm

Form-Based Codes for Zoning Reform to Promote Sustainable Development: Insights From Cities in Southern California, (Journal of the American Planning Association, 2017) E

Zoning reform for advancing sustainability: Insights from Denver's form-based code, (Journal of Urban Design, Dec. 2017) E

Zoning for and against sprawl: The case for form-based codes, (Journal of Urban Design, May 2013) E

Form follows function? How America zones, (Planning Practice & Research, Apr. 2013) E

Section 17: Form-based codes, (NAR Growth Management Fact Book, 2011)

Zoning for prosperity: Streamlined regulations and urban design guidelines as an economic development strategy, (On Common Ground, Feb. 2013)

Better Zoning through Breaking Old Codes: Form-based codes have emerged as a powerful tool for city planners who want to stop the sprawl that’s resulted from bad zoning rules, (Governing Magazine, Mar. 2011)

Brave New Codes: Cities and towns across the country are abandoning conventional zoning codes in favor of a new urbanist alternative, the form-based code. Some architects have embraced the change, but others are wary, (Architect Magazine, July 2010)

A new kind of zoning: Communities of all sizes are adopting form-based codes, (On Common Ground, Winter 2010)

The evolution of zoning since the 1980s: The persistence of localism, (Dartmouth College Department of Economics, 2010)

Useful Websites

The Codes Project: An Anthology of Regulations That Have Shaped Urban Form — A searchable archive of zoning laws, land use development codes, building design codes, and other influential documents, ranging from 360 BC to modern times

MuniCode.com Online Library, (Municipal Code Corporation) — Directory of zoning and other municipal ordinance codes for many U.S. towns, cities, and counties

Form-Based Codes Institute

eBooks & Other Resources


The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Community Planning: An Introduction to the Comprehensive Plan (Kindle, Audiobook, eBook)

A Better Way to Zone: Ten Principles to Create More Livable Cities (Kindle, Audiobook, eBook)

The Complete Guide to Zoning: How Real Estate Owners and Developers Can Create and Preserve Property Value (eBook)

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Member Support. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Member Support at 800-874-6500 for assistance.

City Rules: How Regulations Affect Urban Form, by Emily Talen, (Island Press, 2012)

The complete guide to zoning: How real estate owners and developers can create and preserve property value, by Dwight H. Merriam, (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

City economics, by Brendan O’Flaherty, (Harvard University Press, 2005)

Zoning and the American dream: Promises still to keep, by Charles Haar & Jerold Kayden, (Planners Press, 1989)

The economics of zoning laws, by William Fischel, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985)

The zoning game revisited, by Richard F. Babcock & Charles L. Siemon, (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 1985)

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