Obama Administration makes a push for denser, more affordable cities

The administration calls for zoning code changes and other measures to create more housing. 

November 04, 2016 |

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The Obama Administration recently advocated that local communities change zoning codes that restrict new residential developments, and provided recommendations to encourage construction of more affordable housing.

The administration’s new “Housing Development Toolkit” delves into how local impediments to development keep housing in short supply in desirable areas. Many zoning codes encourage sprawl, drive up housing costs, and worsen gentrification and displacement, the document says.

The toolkit provides several reform recommendations including: 

• Eliminating off-street parking requirements

• Creating zoning that allows high density and multi-family developments like townhouses and apartment buildings

• Requiring developers to build some affordable housing

• Providing developers with incentives to build extra affordable units by allowing them to make their projects bigger if they do

• Taxing vacant land so it gets put to a productive use

Environmentalist hailed the recommendations, but there is little the administration can do on its own to implement them. Federal programs that would encourage widespread adoption of these reforms would have to have the cooperation of Congress to move ahead. The administration emphasized the economic benefits of its proposals to try to drum up Republican support.

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