How Atlanta Plans to Overhaul Zoning for Housing Affordability

The "Atlanta City Design: Housing" initiative is one of the most ambitious planning reform efforts of any large U.S. city, but it's just getting started.

January 20, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


JSvideos / Shutterstock

Rebecca Bellan explores the potential of Atlanta's recent efforts to tackle housing affordability to end single-family zoning in the quickly growing city.

Inspiring the discussion is the city's "Atlanta City Design: Housing" (ACDH) initiativeannounced at the end of 2020 by Mayor Keisha Bottoms as part of the city's One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan. The City Design initiative promises policy reforms, i.e., zoning changes, to lower housing prices in the city.

The headline of Bellan's coverage focuses on whether the nascent initiative could achieve the sort of comprehensive reform, ending single-family zoning entirely, achieved by a relatively small number of cities and states in recent years, but the article goes into a lot more detail about the realities of land use policy and race in the city. The article provides a lot of detail about the initiative will work. So, for example:

The ACDH project breaks down the city into “growth areas” and “conservation areas” based on the physical nature of Atlanta. Growth areas represent the city’s densest locales that are ripe for further urban development. Conservation areas make up a larger portion of the city and include low-density residential regions and green space. To maintain the form and character of these neighbourhoods, “subtle” density could be added, which looks very different from building apartment buildings or other multifamily dwellings.

Among the policies that could be reformed through this process, Bellan lists accessory dwelling units, parking requirements, and urban enterprise zones, among others.

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