Funded on May 15, 2024

This research will assess whether preemption of local land-use regulation can have beneficial impacts for racial justice and health equity. Much of the attention to state preemption has focused on conservative state legislatures limiting the ability of progressive local governments to promote public health and public safety, with detrimental impacts on racial justice and health equity. At the same time, however, some states have preempted local land-use regulation with the goal of promoting racial equity, and these efforts have received significantly less attention from preemption researchers. It is well established that local land-use regulation has led to substantial racial segregation, magnified the racial wealth gap, and produced disparities in access to a variety of resources and opportunities. It is therefore possible (although by no means certain) that state preemption of local land-use regulation could reduce some of these disparities. 

Specifically, this project will examine how state laws in California intended to preempt local restrictions on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have affected racial justice and health equity. ADUs are widely viewed as a potentially important source of affordable market-rate housing in neighborhoods that offer access to jobs, high-quality schools, open space, and other amenities. From 2016 to 2020, California adopted a series of laws requiring local governments and homeowners associations (HOAs) to allow ADUs as-of-right on nearly all single-family parcels. The laws are associated with a substantial increase in ADU permits. 

The researchers will address the following questions: 

  1. Have ADUs permitted in the wake of state preemption affected ethno-racial residential segregation? 

  2. Has preemption put HOA-covered parcels on the same footing as otherwise similar parcels without HOA coverage? 

  3. How are newly permitted ADUs distributed with respect to walkability and pollution burdens? 

  4. How are occupants of these ADUs related to the occupants of the principal structures (i.e., single-family homes) on the relevant lots? For example, do ADUs appear to be facilitating aging in place?