'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.

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.

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