Great Lakes Center Logo

FEBRUARY 13, 2024

How Reforming Housing and Land Use Policies Can Help Education

Key Takeaway: Policy brief explains research findings on the effects of land use and housing policy on school segregation, arguing for coordinating policy across all three sectors.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (February 13, 2024) - Housing, land use, and zoning policies are often siloed in such a way that they are considered and addressed separately from school segregation and students' opportunities to learn. But these policy areas can interact in powerful ways. Professor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley of Virginia Commonwealth University explores how in a new NEPC policy brief, The Potential for Land Use and Housing Reform to Address School Segregation and Educational Opportunity, in which she examines the potential of housing and land use policy reform to address school segregation.

Professor Siegel-Hawley describes the key role that has been played by discriminatory land use planning and zoning regulations. These laws contributed to the unequal wealth distribution currently afflicting the nation, and those inequities-as well as those laws themselves-now shape access to an array of public goods, including schools. Neighborhood-based school assignment creates a direct link between segregated housing and segregated schools. More positively, zoning initiatives in recent years have proliferated to roll back the use of land for exclusionary purposes, with important implications for schools.

This policy brief attempts to break down the siloes separating land use and zoning policies from school segregation discussions and interventions. Drawing on multiple bodies of literature, it explores what we know about the potential of housing and land use policy reform to address school segregation-and why doing so matters. The research reviewed here illuminates the close historical and legal relationship between school and housing segregation and the clear links between land use policy and school and housing segregation. Studies also show that where land use or housing reforms have enabled greater access to less segregated schools, historically marginalized students' outcomes have improved. Although the reforms and, by extension, the research, are somewhat limited, it suggests that land use and housing policy has the potential to more broadly reduce school segregation and improve student outcomes.

To this end, Professor Siegel-Hawley concludes with recommendations for federal and state policymakers to offer pathways to diverse, well-resourced schools for historically marginalized families, along with oversight and enforcement that considers school-housing interrelationships.

Find The Potential for Land Use and Housing Reform to Address School Segregation and Educational Opportunity, by Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, at:

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, sponsors research, produces policy briefs, and publishes expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Our mission is to provide high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence and support a multiracial society that is inclusive, kind, and just. Visit us at:

Facebook Icon
X Icon
LinkedIn Icon
Threads Icon

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high-quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at


Michelle Renée Valladares
(720) 505-1958

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
(804) 828-1940