News Brief

Codifying Social Justice in Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development Code now offers guidance on how jurisdictions can address injustice in the built environment.

 opening of a tiny house village in Seattle

"Permitting permanent occupancy of 'tiny homes' in residential zones is a particularly cost-effective way to maximize affordable housing options within an existing community,” according to the Sustainable Development Code.

Photo: Seattle City Council. License: CC BY 2.0.
The Sustainable Development Code (SDC), which offers model ordinances for municipalities wishing to update development codes to be more sustainable, has added a subchapter on social justice. The subchapter, which is still being built out, was added to existing subchapters addressing social issues like affordability, food security, housing diversity, and environmental justice.

The social justice subchapter identifies good, better, and best actions that jurisdictions can take to address injustice in their communities by removing code barriers, creating incentives, and filling regulatory gaps. Recommended social justice actions include:

  • Removing code barriers to adding accessory dwelling units in areas zoned for single-family homes
  • Allowing tiny homes
  • Restricting development of small-box discount stores
  • Incentivizing development of grocery stores in food deserts
  • Encouraging infill development
  • Limiting the size of single-family homes
  • Creating safe pedestrian and cycling routes to school, work, and nature
  • Requiring variable unit sizes in multifamily buildings
  • Limiting drive-throughs
  • Permitting farmers’ markets in a variety of zoning districts

Each recommendation includes a description of impacts, case studies, links to existing ordinances, and resources for further research.

More on equitable development

No More Red Lines: Undoing Our Legacy of Urban Segregation

Equity in Design and Construction: Seven Case Studies

EcoDistricts Merges with Equity Group to Promote “Just Growth”

For more information:

Sustainable Development Code


Published September 6, 2022

Melton, P. (2022, August 23). Codifying Social Justice in Sustainable Development. Retrieved from

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