How Virginia Counties Use Zoning to Stifle Development

Some state legislators are proposing action at the state level as counties block development using zoning and development requirements even as housing prices rise sharply in the region.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 23, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Writing in the Virginia Mercury, Wyatt Gordon explains how some Virginia counties are making it more difficult to build new housing, despite the recent spike in home prices and low supply.

While single-family zoning gets the most press for keeping housing costs high, Gordon points out that “Setback requirements, lot coverage guidelines, minimum lot sizes and even inclusionary zoning standards can all be manipulated to make new development nigh but impossible.”

Gordon explains a state rule that requires growing counties to allow ‘cluster subdivisions,’ a type of development that allows for denser housing types and requires the conservation of green space. To limit the impact of the rule, some counties are raising the conservation requirement, making development economically infeasible in many cases and preventing the growth of higher-density housing that could make homeownership accessible for more households. “With land a limited resource, each anti-density policy localities institute increases the amount of land needed to produce a single housing unit and thus raises the price on Virginians seeking long-term shelter.”

One state delegate with experience in land use law suggested that a statewide set of rules and toolkit could help promote more housing development and prevent communities from blocking new housing. No proposals currently in the state legislature address or limit local control over zoning, but HJ 507 “directs the Virginia Housing Commission to study how revisions to the state code could ‘streamline and enhance predictability in local development review processes and alleviate the effects of local policies or ordinances that contribute to increased housing costs and constrain the supply of affordable and workforce housing.’”

Wednesday, January 18, 2023 in The Virginia Mercury

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Walkable, mixed-use neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain

Conspiracy Theorists Discover the 15-Minute City

USA Today debunks the false claim that the United Nations’ call for enabling 15-minute cities is a coded plan to institute ‘climate change lockdowns.’

February 8, 2023 - USA Today

Aerial view of MBTA commuter rail station in Concord, Massachusetts among green trees

Massachusetts Zoning Reform Law Reaches First Deadline

Cities and towns had until January 31 to submit their draft plans for rezoning areas near transit stations to comply with a new state law.

February 1, 2023 - Streetsblog Mass


Washington Could Legalize Single-Staircase Buildings

Supporters of ‘point access blocks,’ which are common in Europe and other parts of the world, say the design maximizes living space and lowers the cost of construction.

February 8 - The Urbanist

View of downtown San Francisco from top of windy street at sunset with Coit Tower in distance

San Francisco Housing Plan Gets State Approval

The city cleared a major hurdle as its housing plan, which paves the way for 82,000 new homes by 2030, is certified by the state.

February 8 - KALW

Green Line, Los Angeles

Rail Transit Plans Would Connect L.A.’s South Bay to the Regional Rail System

Two new transit extensions promise several new routes for South Bay residents to access the Los Angeles region’s transit system.

February 8 - The Source