Many local zoning codes are still based on an almost 100-year-old framework that prioritizes best practices from a previous generation. Practices like separating uses and encouraging more space for automobiles than people are still far too common.

Needed: codes for today and tomorrow ...

Communities need to review and modernize codes and planners need resources to make updates happen. Outdated codes paralyze sound planning efforts, leading to income disparities, uncoordinated development, poor land use and, inevitably, housing problems. Communities should adopt or revise codes to enable mixed uses, offer a variety of housing types and price points, and increase the number of places to build while attending to equity and resiliency. States can play an important role in supporting this effort.

... and more options, higher quality

In practice, this may mean reducing or eliminating minimum lot-size requirements, allowing greater height and density, allowing accessory dwelling units, and reducing off-street parking requirements. Modernized codes incorporate the principles of transit-oriented development with emphases on locating housing near public transportation and existing infrastructure and expanding opportunities for non-traditional housing types. These include micro-apartments and accessory dwelling units.

A lower cost of construction does not always translate into a high-quality, affordable unit. The total cost of occupancy or ownership, not simply the cost of production or acquisition, should be taken into consideration when looking at local building and zoning codes. Building techniques that reduce maintenance and risk, while costlier at the outset, may have a substantial positive impact on the total cost of occupancy over time. For example, exceeding minimally acceptable insulation requirements during construction will typically reduce utility bills over the tenancy of the dwelling unit.

Dig In

These APA resources illuminate the issue and prepare you to act in your community.

Completed ADU Repl Basement and Garage
Planning Home Case Study: San Francisco, California

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Unit Legalization Program

In response to the housing crisis in San Francisco, planners and elected officials came together to reform local zoning codes restricting accessory dwelling units (ADUs). In 2014, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation ending a decades-long ban on new ADUs and established a process to legalize unwarranted dwelling units (UDUs). After initial neighborhood success, the legislation expanded over the next few years to increase opportunities for property owners city-wide.

PAS Report

Model Land Development Regulation Guide

This guide explains the development of model smart growth ordinances and how they apply to hot topics like affordable housing and infill development. Mayors, city council members, planning commissioners, and other local policy makers can use this report to familiarize themselves with the contents of land-development regulations.

Zoning Practice

Driving Housing Production

The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program is the nation's most important resource for creating affordable housing. Zoning Practice discusses how LIHTC drives the production of affordable rental housing, summarizes common zoning barriers to LIHTC projects, explores potential zoning reforms to address these barriers, and offers brief case studies of communities that successfully made space for LIHTC projects by reforming their zoning codes.

Zoning Practice

Less Parking, More Housing

American cities have lots of garages that could be converted into affordable apartments, but off-street parking requirements often stand in the way. Zoning Practice details a proposal for zoning reforms to facilitate garage-to-apartment conversions.

Zoning Practice

Repurposing Single-Family Homes

The future is uncertain for single-family neighborhoods. This report lays out a set of comprehensive zoning and land use strategies to help prepare your municipality for the future of single-family housing.