Cities Need More Family-Oriented Housing

For many young families, it’s simply impossible to find affordable housing in cities, leading them to the suburbs not by choice, but by necessity.

2 minute read

April 24, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Seattle Apartments

Edmund Lowe Photography / Shutterstock

Writing in Vox, Rachel M. Cohen points to the outmigration of families to suburban houses and asks, “where are all the apartments for families?”

While some young families do seek out the benefits of suburban living, Cohen argues that “for many other young people looking to start families, the choice to stay in the city or move to the suburbs doesn’t feel much like a choice at all. There simply aren’t many family-oriented housing options in cities, let alone ones young couples could afford.”

Although cities and states are beginning to loosen zoning restrictions to encourage more housing production, this housing often doesn’t reflect the needs of growing families. “even in places that have loosened their zoning rules and authorized new housing construction, the overwhelming majority of new units are studios or one- and two-bedroom apartments, built with singles, childless couples, and adult roommates in mind.”

For Cohen, “zoning reform is necessary but not sufficient” to provide not only sufficient housing, but housing that fits the needs of all household types. While upzoning is ‘fundamental’ to creating more affordable housing, other policies, such as single-staircase reform, are needed to encourage family-oriented housing.

“Other barriers include regulations like minimum lot sizes, ‘set-back’ requirements that give towns power to dictate how far back from the curb a home can be built, and ‘floor-area ratios’ — the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the size of the land on which it’s built.” Cohen also points to the difficulty of acquiring financing for family-oriented projects from ‘risk-averse’ banks.

Sunday, April 23, 2023 in Vox

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