As mentioned before in this blog, an increasing number of state and local governments are revising plans and zoning regulations to help overcome the exclusionary effects of single-family only zoning. The purpose of these initiatives is to provide additional housing opportunities that are affordable to more people in more areas. Zoning revisions may include permitting multiple dwelling uses by right in zoning districts that normally are less dense. Examples of uses include: (i) garage apartments or accessory dwelling units on a lot with a single-family home; (ii) construction of new, or the conversion of existing, housing with multiple dwelling units; and (iii) mixed use buildings or developments that include housing with businesses. In addition, other approaches include relaxing requirements for minimum lot area, dimensional requirements, required buffer yards, and required off-street parking standards for housing.
While in most instances zoning is a local issue, the Federal government is seeking to get more involved in local zoning when it comes to providing more affordable housing. First, as part of President Biden’s proposed $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, over $200 billion would be made available to support public and private affordable housing initiatives. As part of these housing initiatives, it also is proposed that over $5 billion in competitive grants would be made available to states and communities for funding infrastructure and other community betterment projects. The quid pro quo is that, in exchange for the funding, states or local governments must revise plans and zoning regulations to permit more housing opportunities in more neighborhoods, including multi-family housing in areas traditionally zoned exclusively for single-family dwellings.
Additionally, with the assistance and support of the American Planning Association, Congress is pushing a bipartisan bill entitled the Housing Supply and Affordability Act that seeks to create a $300 million competitive grant program to be administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The bill would incentivize states and communities to apply for funding and technical assistance for revising plans and zoning regulations to increase the housing supply, improve housing affordability, and reduce barriers to new housing development, while avoiding the displacement of current residents.
Besides death and taxes, there is one other thing of which you can be sure: in the coming months and years, you certainly will see more support, more opposition, and more media coverage when it comes to communities revising plans and zoning regulations to permit more housing for more people.