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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the tag “inclusionary zoning”

How Cities Can Promote Affordable Housing

How Housing Matters has an article about the above referenced subject. They point to an issue that I have frequently pointed out, zoning, land use, lack of density make affordable housing more difficult to do. Interestingly, the article shows that inclusionary zoning, a darling of the academic elite and the Urban Land Institute, has little effect even in those rare places where it is approved. Written by Paul Dribin

Copy of article from How Housing Matters:

How Can Cities Produce More Affordable Housing?

August 03, 2017

Though cities have recovered from the 2008 recession, housing market trends have created new burdens. Gentrification has taken the form of “new build” housing in recent years, and the demand for housing in formerly depressed neighborhoods has skyrocketed—as have rents. Meanwhile, wages for low- and moderate-income families are stagnant, and federal subsidies for affordable housing have declined. In their article, Lance Freeman and Jenny Schuetz describe housing (particularly rental) affordability in rising markets, review strategies and policies addressing assistance for poor households in inner cities, and provide suggestions for more effective and sustainable affordable housing policies. They present the idea that for any policy tackling housing affordability to be successful, it must take a holistic approach that bridges human development and housing. They urge supporting neighborhoods, schools, crime, and other factors that affect quality of life, in addition to housing, to effectively and sustainably produce affordable housing.

Key findings

The most widely used policies that address housing affordability, such as inclusionary zoning, have produced few affordable units and do not help much with overall housing affordability. The authors found that in the areas they studied, inclusionary zoning produced less than 0.1 percent of the affordable housing stock. A better understanding of why this is depends on recording better data on these programs.
Cities and counties should reduce regulatory burdens of development to reduce the cost of new housing.
Local governments should increase zoning density limits to allow for the production of small, low-cost units.
Local governments and nonprofits working on housing affordability need to attract and use private funding. This will help create an economically diverse housing stock, which is important for labor markets to function and for family and community well-being.

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Workforce Housing

I have done extensive work through the years on Workforce Housing, which is loosely defined as housing that is affordable for average working people. Barriers to this sort of housing are similar but a little bit more subtle than barriers to affordable housing. What I am talking about here is single family or attached units that are fairly small, 1200-1500 square feet, on a small lot.

The key barriers involve issues such as:

1. Zoning- Many times zoning laws do not allow multiple uses within a given area thereby requiring large lots and only single family homes to be constructed.

2. Land use- Again issues such as width of streets, sidewalks, and lot sizes drive up costs significantly.

3. Excessive levels of hearings and paperwork- Many times the permitting process is cumbersome and redundant. St. Charles County requires duplicate inspections by building inspectors and the fire department. All this costs money, adding to the cost of a home.

4. Historic preservation- This is largely a problem in the City of St. Louis. In that city virtually everything is considered historic. Rehab or construction of houses in these areas required intricate design and levels of approval. Costs increase significantly for historically compatible structures. Often, the house itself is not significant but is located in a historic neighborhood.

5. Resistance to manufactured housing- Factory build manufactured housing is much cheaper to construct, is safer, and more energy efficient. Many communities still do not allow for this type of housing.

6. Resistance from neighbors- People who own larger homes are resistant to communities of smaller ones. Consequently we get zoning and land use requirements that require minimum lot and house sizes, thereby driving up costs. Research shows that quality built smaller homes actually add to the value of their more expensive counterparts.

These issues can all be addressed through government and community leadership and common sense and do not require funding. Conservatives and liberals alike should be happy to address these issues. Inclusionary zoning could be one tool to address this but it has proved too politically charged to work in most communities.

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