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Program Profiles

Chapter 40BState of Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Act—known as Chapter 40B—provides for the state oversight of land use decisions in certain situations. In cities that have less than 10 percent of their housing stock affordable to low- and moderate-income households, affordable housing developers whose plans are rejected by local authorities can appeal to the state-level Housing Appeals Committee. The Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California Berkeley, published a working paper on the benefits of adopting a similar program in California.

Cottage Housing Ordinance, Kirkland, Wash.

Kirkland, Wash., an affluent suburb located outside of Seattle, has undertaken multiple efforts to promote the development of more diverse and innovative housing types. Traditionally a single-family community with large homes, the city’s average household size has been decreasing steadily since the 1980s. In response to changing housing needs, the city passed an “Innovative Housing Demonstration Project Ordinance” in 2002. This ordinance allowed for the development of two cottage-style housing developments, including the 16-home Danielson Grove. The two developments were followed by a period of public evaluation, which found wide enthusiasm for this new home style.

In 2007, the city declared the demonstration project a success. Shortly thereafter, the city passed a Cottage Housing ordinance permitting cottage-style housing in all residential zones. The ordinance allows for subdivision developments of up to 24 cottage housing units and requires that one to two of these units be affordable to households earning between 82 and 100 percent area median income.

Most of the city’s cottages are designed as one or one-and-a-half story detached homes with the second story built into the pitch of the roof. Cottage subdivisions must include at least 400 square feet of open space per unit. Each cottage is typically built on a 3,000 square foot lot and is restricted to a maximum of 1,000 square feet of gross floor area. While these homes are often built with a traditional single-family design, they are much smaller than the typical single-family home (which, according to the 2010 Census, had a median size of 2,169 square feet).

Kirkland’s Cottage Housing Ordinance is primarily for the promotion of cottages, but also allows for other compact single-family homes, as well as duplexes and triplexes, in all single-family zones. Compact single-family homes are allowed up to 1,500 square feet, and duplexes and triplexes are limited to 1,200 square feet. Parking requirements have also been reduced for these housing types to one space per unit, unless the unit exceeds 1,000 square feet in gross floor area, in which case two spaces are required. Developers are also permitted to cluster parking on one section of the site.

MetroWestFairfax County, Va.

In 2006, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to rezone an area near the Vienna Metro public transit stop and allow for the construction of fairly high-density residential buildings.  The MetroWest redevelopment combined an older low-density subdivision that contained approximately 65 single-family homes with an additional five acres that had previously been used for surface parking. This plan provided the foundation for 2,250 new condominiums, apartments and townhouses. This is in addition to office and retail space. During negotiations with the developer, Pulte Homes, the county secured an agreement that approximately 5 percent of new homes would be affordable to 70 percent of the metro area’s median income, almost double the number required under Fairfax County regulations for development at this density. As of 2016, the office and retail space had not been constructed.

Micro-Unit Code Amendment, Austin, Texas

Made popular by the nonprofit affordable housing developer Foundation Communities, micro-unit housing has been permitted in Austin for years due to the city’s relatively small minimum unit size requirement. In 2014, the city council amended the municipal zoning code to further reduce regulatory costs and barriers to smaller units, as well as to impose affordability requirements. These changes were prompted by developer concerns about density and parking restrictions, and by the city’s interest in increasing the affordable housing supply in downtown Austin and attracting more single adults to the city center.

The micro-unit code amendment reduces the parking and density requirements for dwelling units of 500 square feet or less if they meet the city’s affordability requirements. For owner-occupied units, developers are required to reserve 10 percent of units as affordable for households earning 80 percent of area median income (AMI), for no less than 99 years. For rental units, developers must reserve 10 percent of units as affordable for households earning 50 percent of AMI, for no less than 40 years. Developments that meet these requirements receive relief from zoning regulations; the minimum site area, which dictates allowed density for developments, is reduced to zero, while the minimum parking requirement is reduced to a ratio of .25 spaces per unit. Additionally, parking is required to be leased separately from the unit to allow for greater affordability and flexibility.

San Pablo Avenue CorridorEl Cerrito, Calif.

As part of the city’s 2014 plan for the San Pablo Avenue Corridor, the city of El Cerrito adopted a zoning code that generally eliminated parking minimums and instead imposed parking maximums. The code differentiates between mid-intensity and high-intensity transit-oriented developments. Mid-intensity projects are allowed up to 1.5 parking spaces per unit, while high-intensity projects are allowed a maximum of 1.0 space per unit.

While there is technically no minimum parking requirement, developers wishing to include a ratio of between 0 and 1.0 (mid-intensity) or 0 and 0.5 (high-intensity) spaces per unit may be required to submit a parking study to provide a detailed analysis of the parking needs for the project and propose transportation demand management techniques to meet demand without additional parking.

In addition to the city’s relaxed parking requirements, the city runs a fee-in-lieu program. This allows developers to pay a fee to the city rather than build the required parking on-site and adds another degree of flexibility for transit-oriented and infill housing developments.

For more information, contact Ann Cheng at the GreenTRIP certification program.

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