Somewhere between the migration to the suburbs in the 20th century and the tight housing market of the ongoing “Big Sort,” there was a turning point called “the Big Downzone.”
The term is used by public policy consultant Amy Dain in her new report for the Boston Indicators Project at The Boston Foundation, but her urge to decode the language of exclusionary zoning in Boston’s suburbs dates back to 2004. And her main finding is how much a 21st century housing crunch was shaped by a 20th century conflict over racial inequality.
After getting her master’s degree in public policy at the Kennedy School, Dain focused on the environmental impact of local housing regulations and land use patterns. That led to noticing, in several communities, a change in the language related to zoning around the early 1970s, just as Boston was going through an acceleration of racial change and heading toward its clash over school segregation.