Reversing Decades of Discriminatory Planning in Louisville
The City of Louisville, Kentucky, is taking steps forward to undo inequitable planning practices that influence property development throughout the city, including limiting affordable housing. During the summer of 2020, Louisville mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Metro Council requested that the Louisville Metro Office of Planning & Design Services review the city's Land Development Code and recommend reforms. Planning & Design Services is using a web-based tool to tell the story of how discriminatory policies came to be enacted and the actions the city is taking to rectify them. For example, using previous reports detailing gaps in affordable housing and spatial data to drive their decision-making, city officials identified potential policy changes that will increase equity in housing and help meet the rising demand for affordable housing in Louisville.
Addressing Discriminatory Planning Practices with GIS
Using geographic information system (GIS) technology to map data, and the ArcGIS StoryMaps app, Planning & Design Services has outlined the history of discriminatory practices and housing exclusion throughout the region. This tool provides transparency and context, including documents, research, books, and other resources, for the public to understand the city's motivation to address the lack of housing opportunities. Planning & Design Services wanted to educate the community about how the disadvantaged have been disenfranchised. The StoryMaps story includes not only the impacts of discriminatory zoning practices but also a solution to solve this challenge. It also sets the stage to introduce the current issues and provide recommendations to make a positive shift in equitable opportunity for residents.
Within the story are proposed reforms to the Land Development Code, a comprehensive set of rules for property development and processes, that were identified as ways to address current inequitable policies and to provide more housing opportunities for residents. For example, 75 percent of Jefferson County, Louisville's county seat, is restricted to single family homes; however, the city is proposing new zoning regulations that would allow for a full mix of housing types. This recommendation, laid out in the Land Development Code Diagnosis report by Opticos Design, presents the opportunity for local government leaders to respond to the rising costs and demand for housing. To take on a holistic approach, the Land Development Code Diagnosis also includes maps to visualize county data and pinpoint which areas should be prioritized for mixed housing in the region's comprehensive plan. Additionally, the maps also display the city's recommendation for where new diversified housing development ought to be required versus where it should be encouraged. The visualizations help policy makers and the public grasp the significant lack of housing diversity in Louisville today, and by providing this analysis, the city can recommend more equitable zoning practices to policy makers.
Because equity has become a widely discussed topic, analyzing historical data to make equitable decisions for communities is a high priority. With the power of GIS, the City of Louisville is taking steps to reverse decades of discriminatory planning to make the community a place where all residents can thrive.