The Case for Upzoning
Alex Baca writes for Greater Greater Washington to capture the current trend in upzoning, defined here as "changing zoning laws to make legal taller and/or denser buildings," as pursued by cities (Minneapolis and Seattle) and states (Oregon and California) as a way to address high housing costs.
After setting the context, Baca asks the key question: Why upzoning? The answer: on most of the land in the country, "all you can build is a single-family home, typically on a large lot." The Washington, D.C. region provides a perfect example of that kind of land use choice, according to Baca: "72% of our region is zoned single-family (this includes the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve), while 42% of DC alone is zoned single-family."
The reason to reverse the dominant trend in the country, according to Baca is twofold: housing affordability and the environmental impact of sprawling land use patterns.
Neither of these parallel crises is helped by the fact that the only thing you can usually build in most American cities is a single-family home, which is on average more expensive than a home in a multiplex, and far worse for the environment. By preventing multifamily homes outright, single-family zoning dramatically curtails the construction of more, smaller homes. Apartment living might not be for everyone, but it shouldn’t be off-limits to build the kinds of neighborhoods we say we love.