On Nov. 29, I attended a Policy Forum at the CATO Institute exploring the question of how to keep housing affordable and if cities should grow upward or grow outward. One key takeaway for me was the broad agreement, at least at a high level, that land-use regulation increases the cost to build housing. While conservatives and progressives may disagree on the costs and benefits of specific regulations, this event highlighted that we can start from a place of agreement and find areas to explore together. All three panelists (Randall O’Toole, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, Emily Hamilton, Policy Research Manager, Mercatus Center and Gerritt Knaap, Professor of Urban Studies and Executive Director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education) agreed that land-use regulations increase the cost to build affordable housing, and that local jurisdictions need to consider how to lower regulatory costs. This discussion comes after the White House proposed a development toolkit and exploration of this topic by the American Enterprise Institute. All have come to some shared conclusions like reducing parking requirements for transit-oriented developments and implementing density bonuses as ways to remove barriers to affordable housing. While the panelists disagreed about specific regulations like growth management boundaries and inclusionary zoning, the need for appropriate land-use regulation where the benefits outweigh the costs, for regulation appropriate to the regional housing market, the importance of streamlined approval processes and removing barriers to developing affordable housing could be areas where unlikely partners can work together.
Removing barriers related to land-use regulation could be very helpful for affordable housing. In an era of declining federal resources, forming new partnerships and exploring opportunities at the state and local levels are two increasingly important ways we can move affordable housing forward.