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White House releases Housing Development toolkit focused on zoning

On Monday, September 26, 2016, the White House released a Housing Development Toolkit encouraging local governments to explore modernizing local zoning regulations to spur economic development.  Outdated or overly restrictive zoning regulations can hinder housing affordability, provision of diverse housing types, transit-supportive densities, walkability, and access to transportation. 

Many communities throughout the country have not updated their zoning ordinances in decades. This delay has many impacts. First, zoning codes are a key way to implement local land use plans. This is why zoning code updates are often pursued as a first step to implement plans developed through CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program. In addition, local barriers to housing development may limit development potential. For example, demand may be shifting from auto-oriented development forms to more walkable town centers or complete communities with accessible transit, employment, retail, service, and entertainment options. By continuing to use outdated zoning codes, local governments may not be able to adequately respond to current market conditions and development trends or offer a streamlined development approval process. 

The Housing Development Toolkit outlines action items that states and local governments can undertake to promote livability, sustainability, resiliency, and affordability through land use decisions and regulations, including: 

  • Facilitating by-right development
  • Taxing vacant land or donating it to non-profit developers
  • Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines
  • Eliminating off-street parking requirements
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units
  • Establishing density bonuses
  • Creating high-density and multifamily zoning districts
  • Employing inclusionary zoning
  • Establishing development tax or value capture incentives
  • Using property tax abatements

CMAP's support of these ideas is illustrated through various efforts of the LTA program, such as zoning updates in Bensenville and Berwyn, and parking studies in Glen Ellyn and Hinsdale. Additionally, technical reports such as the Examination of Local Economic Development Incentives in Northeastern Illinois and Inclusionary Zoning Strategy Report address local economic development issues.

Looking Ahead
GO TO 2040 recognizes the importance of supporting a balance of housing options, increasing housing density near transit stations, and removing barriers to economic development. This includes updating zoning regulations to align with market conditions and community goals.  Refinements to many of these strategies will be addressed in ON TO 2050, paying specific attention to reinvestment in locations with infill development opportunities.