May 2015

You Asked. We Answered.

At the Inquiry Answer Service, we answer, on average, more than 300 questions for our subscribers each month. We consult a variety of sources to create a custom research packet — which may include APA publications, sample ordinances and plans, articles and literature from partner organizations, and the most current information available online — for each question.

Each month, we choose one question to feature here, so you can see what your peers around the country are asking and how we answered. When your organization subscribes to PAS, you and your colleagues will also have access to previous editions.

You Asked.

What are small-lot subdivisions?

We are researching strategies for adding more affordable and creative housing options to our community. Can you provide some information on small-lot subdivisions?

We Answered.

In 2005, Los Angeles passed the first Small Lot Ordinance that cleared the way for creative residential developments of small homes on smaller lots as a way to increase the production of affordable housing options as infill development. Since then, a number of other cities, mainly in California but also in other states including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Texas, have adopted small-lot subdivision ordinances. These ordinances reduce standards for minimum lot sizes, widths, and setbacks to allow infill development of smaller housing in support of affordability and increasing housing options available to local residents. In some communities, such as Los Angeles, the ordinance is targeted at individual lots within already-developed neighborhoods; in other cities, minimum parcel size requirements make this an option for redeveloping larger sites with small-lot subdivisions.

Small-lot subdivision ordinances typically address minimum size and dimensional standards; minimum lot size tends to range from 3,000 to 5,000 SF, depending on the community. Discretionary approval may be needed for these projects. Small-lot construction may be limited to certain districts. Some communities provide detailed development and design standards for small-lot developments, addressing site and building design, public and private open space requirements, parking, landscaping, and other elements.

In general, this tool is intended to promote greater affordability and housing choice, yet there are questions as to whether in Los Angeles small-lot projects are working to displace low-income and long-term residents. Several background resources in the list below focus on Los Angeles's ordinance and experience.

Resource List

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