housing diversity: overview » introduction » as-of-right development

Communities interested in expanding the availability of affordable homes should carefully examine current zoning policies to determine the effect they have on housing affordability. Are there adequate opportunities to build multifamily homes? Can residents build accessory dwelling units for a relative or for additional rental income? Does the system rely heavily on zoning variances that make it more expensive to develop homes and therefore may escalate home prices?

In their review, communities should seek to:
  • Expand the range of allowable housing options and areas in which they may be built
  • Revise policies that make these housing types impractical
  • Consider ways to reduce the reliance on variances and expand "as of right" development opportunities
Building proposals that fit within the specifications of local zoning policies may proceed
"as of right." Developers still need to secure a building permit and fulfill customary regulatory requirements, but the approvals process is generally less contentious and/or
Quality Hill 1
Photo courtesy of McCormack Baron Salazar
time-consuming than the process for proposals that require an exception from current zoning regulations. Through the revision of zoning policies, jurisdictions can significantly broaden the types of housing that are allowed as of right, thus simplifying and reducing the cost of the delivering homes that are more likely to be affordable to working families.

There is no one-size-fits-all policy that will work to expand housing options in all communities, but through consultation with builders and other key stakeholders, officials can develop a zoning code that facilitates development of lower-cost homes without compromising other core community concerns.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Housing Authority
Click on the links below to learn more about specific types of housing that can help communities meet the needs of households with a range of preferences and budgets:

Multifamily/attached homes, which may include apartment buildings, condominiums, town homes, row houses and duplexes.

"Factory-built" homes, from manufactured homes built entirely in production facilities to modular housing that is assembled on-site.

Accessory dwelling units within or attached to a larger single-family home, or on the same lot.

Mixed-use housing, where residential units co-exist with commercial and retail enterprises.

Single-room occupancies, also called efficiency apartments and residential studio units.

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Revise zoning policies to allow development of a range of housing types "as of right"
Greater housing diversity and affordability may be achieved by revising zoning policies to eliminate both direct and "back door" prohibitions and explicitly allow a range of housing types, rather than requiring a special review process or disallowing certain types of structures entirely.

Other pages in this section:

Providence Walk 2Consider other innovative land use regulations that facilitate delivery of lower-cost homes
Local officials can implement an array of land use tools to create a regulatory environment that is hospitable to the development of homes affordable to working families

Click here to view other resources on zoning policies that allow housing diversity.