Laurel Wamsley: Eliminating Single-Family Zoning


Oregon is on its way to making a significant change in what housing is allowed to be built in the state. The state’s House and Senate have now both passed a measure that requires cities with more than 10,000 people to allow duplexes in areas zoned for single-family homes. In the Portland metro area it goes a step further, requiring cities and counties to allow the building of housing such as quadplexes and “cottage clusters” of homes around a common yard.

House Bill 2001 will now go before Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, who is expected to sign it. It had bipartisan support and was approved on the last day of a wild legislative session that saw some Republican senators flee the state over a climate bill. Experts say it would be the first state-level legalization of a housing type that has become very difficult to build in much of the U.S.

Justin Fox: Zoning Overuse - 100 Year Review

Bloomberg News:

Over the past few years, zoning has been blamed, mainly by economists bearing substantial empirical evidence, for an ever-growing litany of ills. The charge that zoning is used to keep poor people and minorities out of wealthy suburbs has been around for decades. But recent research has also blamed it for increasing income segregation, reducing economic mobility and depressing economic growth nationwide.

One can never be certain about these things, but it’s quite possible that excessive land-use restrictions are among the major causes of our long national economic malaise. Jason Furman, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, made this very point in a speech in November. Yet the platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention this week made no mention of either “land use” or “zoning,” while the Republican platform mentioned them only to condemn the current administration’s purported efforts “to undermine zoning laws in order to socially engineer every community in the country.”

The irony, of course, is that zoning laws are themselves a form of social engineering. That doesn’t mean they’re always malign, but during this anniversary week it does seem worth going over how and why the engineering got started.

Matt Steele: Zoning Contributes to Unaffordability

There’s an Ethiopian proverb that goes something like, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” When it comes to housing, Minneapolitans may have it better than those in Seattle, San Francisco, D.C., and Brooklyn, but a larger and wider slice of Minneapolis is feeling the pinch of fast-rising rents. For some, this even means displacement or possibly even homelessness. This is unacceptable. And it doesn’t have to be this way, because we could eliminate artificial caps on housing supply in Minneapolis, thereby reducing equilibrium rents and making housing more affordable for more people. If every dwelling unit is like a little barely-visible spider web, it may seem like a unit here or two units there won’t make a big difference. But, on the whole, the economics are sound: Rising supply necessarily lowers rents.

No, I’m not going to claim that upzoning is the panacea to housing affordability. But our current zoning code is working against natural housing supply, and that’s working against housing affordability. It seems like such an easy, obvious win to get rid of the barriers to new housing stock in our city.

To understand how our zoning code is restrictive to the point of being harmful to housing affordability, let’s look at a real life example...

The reader comments to this article are worth reading as well.