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Vol. 108, Issue 1

Cornell Law Review Online

Weaponizing Code Enforcement

Jennifer Aronsohn
Law clerk to Justice Clint Bolick, Arizona Supreme Court. J.D., Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, 2021.

8 Feb 2023

Zoning has captured the nation’s attention in recent years: community activism has led cities and states to revisit their zoning codes as a means to increase access to affordable housing. The primary focus has been on single family zoning and its exclusionary effect in reinforcing segregation. However, within some municipalities’ zoning code is a less recognized regulatory device, rental registration requirements, that further controls the demographics of the jurisdiction by excluding renters that the municipality deems undesirable.
This Essay will describe how landlord or rental registration ordinances, coupled with selective heightened enforcement of building codes and frequent law enforcement checks, can be a Fair Housing Act violation. It will also explain how the current disparate impact claim framework makes it difficult to prove a claim against a local government—a municipality can justify its practices as designed to improve the quality of life for renters and a resident cannot point to a less discriminatory means to do so. 

To read this Essay, please click here: Weaponizing Code Enforcement.