'Housing Supply and Affordability Act' Offers $1.5 Billion in Grants for Development-Friendly Zoning Reforms

The Housing Supply and Affordability Act would be a major victory for the YIMBY cause.

2 minute read

March 24, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Washington D.C. Street

J. Sibiga Photography / Flickr

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, with fellow Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, yesterday introduced the Housing Supply and Affordability Act, legislation that "would authorize $1.5 billion for federal grants to local governments that commit to increase their supply of local housing, to be distributed over the next five years," reports Kriston Capps.

The legislation aims to address the U.S. affordable housing crisis by giving local leaders resources to overcome obstacles to new construction, such as density-unfriendly or discriminatory zoning regulations. Eligible local governments, including regional coalitions, will be able to apply for grants to build out “housing policy plans” — local roadmaps that, taken together, promise a way out of the nation’s housing crisis.

If approved, the law would usher in a new era for YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) development politics—one with federal funding support.

Capps points out that the proposed grant program is modeled on a model created by Washington State in 2019. "This state-level program authorized $5 million in local grants to help cities draft housing needs assessments," explains Capps. A growing number of cities are and states are pursuing the kind of planning reform efforts that would be funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development if this law passes through Congress. Connecticut is the latest state to consider statewide preemption of local exclusionary zoning laws, after Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, and California have achieved various levels of progress toward the same goal. Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Atlanta, Everett, TacomaOlympia, and Portland are among the cities that have acted to reform zoning laws at the local level. 

Obviously, such a game-changing piece of legislation will encounter opposition, bipartisan backing or not. Roger Valdez, director of Seattle for Growth, has already penned an opinion piece rejecting the legislation outright. Organizations expressing support for the legislation include the American Institute of Architects, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the National Apartment Association, reports Capps. The American Planning Association (APA) also supports the bill, as made clear in the Tweet and video, featuring APA Policy Director Jason Jordan, that follows.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

View of 110 freeway with downtown Los Angeles buildings in background.

LA Freeway Ramp ‘Quietly Canceled’

A 2018 lawsuit forced Metro and Caltrans to do full environmental reviews of the project, leading to its cancellation.

February 29, 2024 - Streetsblog LA

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Aerial view of mid-density neighborhod in Newark, New Jersey.

Newark Kicks Off $1 Home Sale Program

The city sold seven properties as part of an effort to revive blighted sites and encourage housing production.

1 minute ago - Smart Cities Dive

Blue and white Pittsburgh bike share bikes lined up at a station with a red city bus on street in background.

Micromobility Operators Call for Better Links to Transit

For shared mobility to succeed, systems must tap into the connectivity and funding potential offered by closer collaboration with public transit.

March 4 - GovTech

New York MTA Bus

Retaining Transit Workers Is About More Than Wages

An analysis of California transit employees found a high rate of burnout among operators who face unpredictable work schedules, high housing costs, and occasional violence.

March 4 - Streetsblog California

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.