Eons ago, when I was a new recruit in a residential support agency, I was absolutely baffled by the zoning laws in Winnipeg. The agency wanted to purchase a lovely house in a great neighbourhood but there was one hiccup. It was just down the street from a home purchased by another agency. We applied and won a variance but not without my curiosity getting the better of me. “Why,” I asked my superiors, “can’t people with disabilities be neighbours?” This jangled my understanding of building community relationships and connections.
My question was answered by a colleague. She said it was necessary to prevent agencies from buying apartment buildings or many houses in a row. If lots of people with disabilities lived very closely together then they could end up being treated in a similar way to the institutions that community living advocates are so intent on shutting down. The danger being that it could become another way of segregating people with disabilities from their community at large.
Zoning, while often well-meant, can have devastating consequences. Darryl forwarded this article to me that opened my eyes to yet another way to see the effects of this government tool. There are good reasons that zoning laws come into being but they can be used as a tool of discrimination. Referred to as people zoning, it can become quite ridiculous. The article supports reforms to zoning that regulate land usage, not the type of people living there. After all, we would consider it ridiculous if all people with freckles had to live 100m apart or if only blondes were permitted in public parks. One township had a cap of 36 homes allowed in the community! That’s terrible community spirit.
What are your thoughts and experiences with zoning? Any comments on the article “Keeping Them at Bay: Municipal Exclusion Practices?”
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