How Zoning Laws Can Affect Families Looking for Homes

When you’re searching for a new home, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. From the location of the home to the number of bedrooms it has, your head will be spinning in no time. However, one factor that you never want to overlook is the zoning laws in a specific area. Zoning laws often affect low income families and racial minorities the most. 

According to Richard Rothstein, “Our residential racial boundaries are as much a civil rights violation as the segregation of water fountains, buses and lunch counters that we confronted six decades ago.” This is because modern zoning laws are often built upon racist policies meant to segregate communities. 

Recently, Minneapolis has adopted a plan that intends to challenge exclusive zoning laws. Most zoning laws affect families in subtle ways, as legally they can no longer simple obstruct families on the basis of race. Some of these restrictions involve business, historical homes, and remodeling. Here are a few other ways zoning laws can affect families looking for homes.

Home Business

With the latest coronavirus pandemic, more and more people are working from home and many have decided to start their own home-based business. Unfortunately, some residential zoning codes can prohibit home businesses or just some types of home business. For example, many local zoning codes exclude photographers and in-home child care. However, if you plan on having your home-based business, you need to understand the zoning restrictions in that area.

Historical Homes

One of the biggest areas of zoning concerns is with historic homes. These homes are deemed to have a significant amount of historic value to the community. While you may find a single family home for sale that is historic, it doesn’t mean you can do anything you want with it. Many local zoning codes require homeowners of historic homes to get approval before simple remodeling projects like exterior painting.


Some zoning laws can restrict your ability to remodel your existing home. This really varies per specific area but can be a rude awakening if you planned on remodeling a home that you’ve purchased. Some areas may restrict adding a second level, while others may restrict adding an apartment above an existing garage. If you intend to do any remodeling to a potential home, you better check the zoning laws before you buy it to ensure that it’s possible.

Parking and Storage

Many families have invested in a boat or RV for some recreational summertime fun. While you may have not thought twice about it in the past, not all areas allow you to store these items at your home. Some zoning laws may restrict the parking of oversized vehicles in your driveway. It’s a good idea to look around at other homes in a potential area to get a feel for whether or not this is a restriction you’re going to have to worry about with a certain home.

Photo by Andras Kovacs on Unsplash

Zoning laws can widely affect a low-income or minority family’s ability to enjoy your new home. Before you ever sign on the dotted line, it’s a good idea to talk with a zoning officer about what you plan on doing with the home. This way, you can be assured that the zoning laws permit it before you invest a lot of money in the purchase of a home.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at or Twitter @BrookeChaplan