Atlantic Cities

Argument of the Day: Want Affordable Housing? Look to the Zoning Code

Argument of the Day: Want Affordable Housing? Look to the Zoning Code
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Over at Washington City Paper's Housing Complex blog, Lydia DePillis makes a strong case for incorporating land use into affordable housing advocacy.

Writing about D.C.'s housing market (where there are half as many apartments that cost less than $750 per month than there were in 2000), DePillis argues that activists must look beyond housing subsidies. They should push for zoning code changes that make it easier for developers to produce more housing stock.

In the District of Columbia, this means one major change - getting rid of the city's height limit. As DePillis writes:

Washington is constrained by our height limits .... there are lots of areas where D.C. limits its own capacity to build through low-density zoning. Just one example: The lot across from the Anacostia Metro station owned by Bethlehem Baptist Church, which I've mentioned before. It's zoned for low density mixed-use development, and most of the land around it is zoned for low-density residential—not the most restrictive zoning category, but hardly maximizing the area's potential. If a developer were able to build seven stories on that land, the numbers might start to pencil. Sure, the Zoning Commission has allowed exemptions for more density, but that's an incredibly time consuming and costly process that lots of people would just rather not put up with.

Photo credit: Songquan Deng /Shutterstock

Amanda Erickson is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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