The Biden administration announced a new plan to ease housing costs and bolster housing supply in communities nationwide that have experienced soaring rents and home prices prohibiting ownership. As part of the Housing Supply Action Plan, the White House plans to shepherd grant money to jurisdictions that have reformed zoning and land use policies.
Sara Bronin is a professor of planning, an architect and attorney who studies how law and policy can foster more equitable, sustainable, well-designed and connected places. Bronin is spearheading an effort to develop a National Zoning Atlas, which aims to demystify the patchwork of zoning codes across jurisdictions nationwide. She says Biden’s efforts are laudable, but much more zoning data is needed to understand which kinds of reforms should be rewarded.
“The first element of the White House plan to promote more housing is to encourage and reward zoning reform efforts that enable more housing. This is a laudable and important goal but figuring out which reforms make a difference is harder than it appears.
“After organizing a zoning atlas for every jurisdiction in Connecticut, my research has shown that zoning kills housing by a thousand cuts, with obscure zoning provisions constraining housing development in often hidden ways.
“For President Biden’s plan to work, we’ll need to collect a lot more data about zoning. My Legal Constructs Lab at Cornell University is coordinating a national effort to create a national zoning atlas with teams in about a dozen states, and we’re hopeful that these efforts will accelerate as this announcement gives them new urgency.”