Common land use classifications include residential, industrial, commercial, agricultural, recreational and institutional. Governments often specify land uses though zoning or other land-use regulations. However, in the past many governments, especially in the United States, took a laissez-faire attitude to land usage. In areas where land use is not regulated, individual property owners define their own usage, but this may lead to problems, such as depletion of resources and natural habitats as well as cramped, dark and dirty cities.
Residential land use refers to places where people live, in everything from mobile homes to apartment towers. Commercial land is used by retailers and offices. Industrial land includes everything from oil refineries to mines to manufacturing plants. Agricultural land is for growing crops and animal husbandry. Recreational land includes areas such as parks and playgrounds, and institutional land is used by government services or their private equivalents, such as hospitals, schools and courthouses.
In the United States, most cities and towns regulate land usage with zoning policies, specifying particular areas for certain uses. Zoning regulations are often very specific, including building height and footprint. By controlling how property is used and how building are built, municipalities try to plan for anticipated growth and changes in the future.