In Fairfield County in Connecticut—ranked in some studies as the most unequal metropolitan area in the U.S.✎ EditSign—$10 million homes on sprawling lots in Westport sit a short drive from rundown homes in the city of Bridgeport, where roughly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
As in many other parts of the county, the area is segregated by income and race in part because of restrictive zoning laws. An interactive map called the Connecticut Zoning Atlas, the first of its kind in the country, shows how much codes differ between towns.
“Zoning is the hidden power that dictates almost everything we do,” says Sara Bronin, an architect and the founder of Desegregate Connecticut, a coalition of volunteers and organizations that formed in mid-2020 to push for changes in land-use laws. “It tells us what kind of housing can be built where, and therefore has significant effects on our society, our economy, and on equity.”