Not Just Use: More Zoning Regulations to Unlock Housing Equity

Prohibiting single-family zoning alone won’t accomplish the needed transformation of the built environment in the United States.

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August 31, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A “spotlight on zoning practice” published this week by the American Planning Association (APA) goes into detail on some of the considerations in zoning codes other than land use that can contribute to housing equity. The “spotlight” provides insight into a longer piece written by John Zeanah for the May 2022 issue of Zoning Practice.

“Proposals to eliminate zoning districts that permit only single-family homes have dominated zoning reform discussions for the past five years. But focusing narrowly on getting rid of, so called, single-family-only zoning is unlikely to dramatically increase the supply of housing in most communities,” begins the post.

So what other zoning considerations can support missing middle housing and housing equity, according to Zeanah? The article lists two: 1) rightsizing bulk standards and 2) revisiting building codes.

On the first recommendation, Zeanah cites a 1991 report, “Not in My Backyard,” prepared by the Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing and presented to then Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp.

“Zeanah suggests planners should evaluate opportunities to relax bulk standards that make it difficult to fit multiple residences on a lot as well as those that require larger lots than the market would otherwise provide. These include standards that stipulate a minimum lot size or lot area per dwelling unit and those that establish a maximum building height.”

Monday, August 29, 2022 in American Planning Association

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