More Evidence Upzoning Alone Won't Boost Housing

Experts caution that to encourage significant new housing production, other zoning reforms that reduce costs and streamline permitting should accompany increased density requirements.

January 27, 2022, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

South San Jose houses

SchuminWeb / Wikimedia Commons

In yet another cautionary article warning planners of the limitations of upzoning, Carl Smith reports on a Connecticut study that reveals that eliminating single-family zoning is only one step toward reducing the massive gap between affordable housing supply and demand. The study was conducted by Desegregate Connecticut, which created a first-of-its-kind map that details zoning codes in each of the state's jurisdictions, allowing planners to compare different zoning regulations and understand how they interconnect. 

Their analysis found that "a surprising number of other zoning requirements have the potential to interfere with efforts to open more land to multifamily dwellings." These include public hearing requirements that can delay or derail projects, minimum parking requirements, height limits, lot coverage, floor area ratio requirements, and occupancy restrictions. As others have pointed out, upzoning alone doesn't guarantee new construction if demand doesn't exist or other restrictions make development too onerous and expensive.

Advocates like Desegregate Connecticut are pushing for other zoning reforms that, together with upzoning, will make a real positive impact on the housing market. Thanks in part to Desegregate CT's efforts, which we covered last March, the Connecticut state legislature passed Public Act 21-29, a bill that addresses many of the above concerns and implements more comprehensive zoning reform that goes beyond density to remove other barriers to new housing.

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