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Can Seattle Solve the Affordable Housing Crisis With Zoning?
As a part of its Housing Affordability and Living Agenda, Seattle city leaders considered the end of single family zoning. They believe that the designation of more than 65 percent of the community’s land as "single family" constrains the ability of the city to grow. The removal of this zoning designation will allow the construction of over 50,000 new housing units. In its proposal [pdf], the city has called for the designation of nearly half of those units as affordable. The new plan deemphasizes parking requirements and calls for taller and denser housing units. Beyond building new units, the plan also calls for the preservation of existing affordable units and proposes strategies to protect them from conversion.
While pundits typically criticize zoning for contributing to the demise of the modern city, Seattle has once again demonstrated that old tools may be reinvented to solve complex urban problems.