The article includes several suggested policy changes that will help create denser communities. The first step is to, “loosen restrictive zoning that effectively blocks less-affluent households and stop mandating that lots meet large minimum-size requirements, leading to sprawling, sparsely populated neighborhoods.” This doesn’t have to be done through tower development. Cities could permit more homes on single-family lots. Apartments can be located near transit. Underused public property like surface parking lots can be used for new housing.
The second step is to, “reduce the cost and uncertainty of getting a housing project built”. Galante stated it takes years to get permission to build (we also heard this from developers in Vancouver). Long timelines and delays throughout add cost and risk to projects, which only serve to increase the price of the housing.
The author cites the City of Vancouver allowing small cottages in the yards of single-family homes. Los Angeles has a Transit Oriented Communities plan that reduced parking requirements, leading to over 20,000 new apartments, 21% of them affordable housing. New York City has “as of right” zoning that allows developments to proceed with minimal review except when changes to zoning are necessary. Galante recommends that federal infrastructure funding (in Canada this would come from CMHC through the National Housing Strategy, discussed in this blog post) be tied to these types of actions.
Opening up building opportunities will stimulate the industry, and it doesn’t require extra funding. This allows for more people to work, provides safe and affordable living, and allows for property taxes and other revenue to local government for community services. Now is the time to reduce restrictions and build denser communities.
- “This pandemic is reminding us that we need communities where teachers, child- and elder-care workers, nurses, doctors, janitors, construction workers, baristas, tech executives and engineers all share in the prosperity and the comfort of an affordable home.”