How Smarter Land Use Policies Can Strengthen Local Housing Markets


A new Urban Land Institute (ULI) report, Yes in My Backyard, shows how state and local governments can create more of the housing options communities increasingly need through smarter local land use policies and incentives.

The report provides ULI members and other real estate leaders with actionable advice on how their states and cities can create a better policy environment for housing development, with real examples from states around the country.

Yes in My Backyard finds that state and local collaboration on housing can create a lower cost of doing business, a more efficient real estate market, and a wider array of options for buyers and renters across the income spectrum.

The report suggests five specific ways that states can help cities and counties promote the development of sufficient housing supply, based on existing efforts underway in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

  • Ensure that localities and regions are assessing their housing needs for the future. Because many communities do not analyze their housing needs or assess the importance of housing to economic growth, states should establish and enforce workable standards.
  • Provide incentives to local communities to zone for new housing. Zoning often needs to be modified to allow for and encourage development of needed new housing. States can support communities’ efforts with financial and technical assistance.
  • Reduce regulatory requirements that increase costs and stifle development. States can use their authority and creativity to cut the regulatory red tape that unnecessarily makes housing more expensive.
  • Authorize cities to invest their own resources linked to pro-housing land use. Even with appropriate zoning, local jurisdictions often need state approval to offer their own incentives for construction of below-market-rate housing.
  • Enable local communities to overcome unreasonable neighborhood opposition. Community opposition can drive up the cost of—or completely derail—the construction of new housing. States can provide mechanisms to moderate “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) opposition and make it easier to build housing needed to support local growth.

In addition to case studies of states that have successfully used these approaches, the report provides broad-based insights to help inform others, and includes a comprehensive set of resources for communities interested in taking action.

Read the Full Report

One comment on “How Smarter Land Use Policies Can Strengthen Local Housing Markets

  1. With regard to “”Community opposition can drive up the cost of—or completely derail—the construction of new housing,”” the reality is that people don’t oppose projects just to be obstructionist, but rather look at it from a cost/benefit standpoint — also known as “”What’s in it for me?””

    A case in point has been the bitter battle over a flood-zone but sizable lot off of a major highway near here. It has been a woodlot for perhaps 50 years despite a fairly favorable highway location. A proposal for retail, a restaurant and as many as 230 apartment units in a 5-story building was bitterly opposed. Residents thought the proposal was an overly aggressive and dense use of the land and expressed concerns over property values, loss of local open space and flooding. They stand to have issues created by the project — traffic, noise, perhaps water in their yards and homes. For this possibility, they get nothing in compensation, so it’s little wonder that they oppose the project.

    Perhaps this is where the issue needs to be considered. Would opposition to these things be lessened if some form of benefit was offered to the neighbors? In a high-tax area such as the one where the project will be built, could some of these new tax revenues be permanently allocated to lower the property tax bills of the property owners directly adjacent or impacted by the project? This would provide a direct incentive to support the project, rather than getting absolutely no benefit from it.

    This would be up to the town and the developer to consider how best to implement, but would lessen opposition and give locals reasons to support certain kinds of development, especially that which may benefit the community as a whole.

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