Zoning Reform Efforts

Updated February 14, 2024

What are state and local governments doing about zoning and housing affordability?

The list below is an ongoing collection of local and statewide efforts to spur new housing supply by reforming zoning regulations. While this collection isn’t exhaustive, we’ve done our best to curate some of the most relevant and noteworthy initiatives within Virginia and beyond. We will update and add to this list on a regular basis.

Rethinking zoning to promote housing affordability is a relatively new movement—but it’s gaining momentum faster than you might think. To help keep track of these efforts, we’ve labeled their current status using the legend below. For each initiative we’ve also provided a brief description and several links to learn more.

If there’s something you’d like to see included here, let us know by filling out the contact form at the bottom of this page.

Reform Status✅ Successful🔼 Introduced⏩ In-progress⛔ Failed / repealed / struck down⚠ Contested or Compromised

Efforts in Virginia

Through spring 2023, successful and pending major zoning reforms in the Commonwealth are only at the local level. The General Assembly has taken up some attempts by lawmakers for the state to mandate or incentivize action by localities, but has thus far only approved efforts to better track local land use policies.


HB 2046: Annual housing reports from localities to DHCD

Several bills directing the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to investigate statewide housing needs and the impacts of local zoning were introduced in the 2023 Session. Incorporated into HB 2046, which passed both Senate and House unanimously, the final legislation initiates a new statewide housing needs assessment and plan every five years.

As part of that process, the bill also requires almost every locality in Virginia (i.e., those with more than 3,500 people) to submit annual reports to DHCD that summarize their “housing policies, ordinances, or processes affecting the development and construction of housing.”

DHCD will publish these reports on their website and use them in their statewide housing analysis. These new requirements satisfy one plank of Governor Youngkin’s “Make Virginia Home” plan announced in November 2022.

Status: Signed into law on March 27, 2023.

HB 2046 Statewide housing needs assessment and plan (Bill language and history)

HB 2100: By-right ADUs across state on any property zoned for single-family homes

Patroned by Del. Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville) in the 2023 Session, this bill would have required localities to permit accessory dwelling units as a by-right use on any property zoned for single-family homes. The bill included language to prevent localities from over-regulating occupancy, parking, setbacks, and other factors. 

Status: Failed to advance from House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns on 5-4 vote.

HB 2100 Accessory dwelling units (Bill language and history)

Can carriage housing and granny flats ease the housing crisis? (Virginia Mercury commentary)

Opposition statement (Virginia Association of Counties)


Arlington County: Missing Middle Housing Proposal

In 2020, the County began its Missing Middle Housing Study (MMHS) to explore how new housing types could address Arlington’s shortfall in housing supply. After two years of public engagement, the MMHS has reached its final phase, with a final vote from the Arlington County Board on March 22, 2023 to expand housing options in portions of the county that currently only allow for single-family homes.

The Board adopted a series of Zoning Ordinance and General Land Use Plan amendments related to the Missing Middle Housing Study. These amendments will allow for Expanded Housing Options (EHO) development for up to 6 units per residential lot—if certain conditions are met, including the same building height, setbacks, and size as allowed for single-detached homes. The adoption also caps annual permits at 58, distributed around the County. The changes will take effect July 1, 2023.

Status: Passed unanimously by Board of Supervisors on March 22, 2023. Contested. Trial set to begin July 8, 2024.

A group of single-family homeowners are attempting to sue the County, alleging that administrators did not comply with Virginia State Code as it relates to studying the impacts of zoning changes, advertising public information and public hearings, or listening to homeowners’ concerns with the new regulations. A judge decided they have grounds to sue Arlington County; a 5-day trial is expected to begin on July 8, 2024. In the meantime, however, the County is approving new missing middle projects.

Missing Middle Housing Study (Arlington County website)

Missing Middle Arlington (Website by Alliance for Housing Solutions)

City of Alexandria: Zoning for Housing/Housing for All

The City of Alexandria undertook the Zoning for Housing and Housing for All initiatives in 2020. According to the City:

Zoning for Housing is a comprehensive proposal of zoning reforms with the goal of expanding housing production and affordability and addressing past and current barriers to equitable housing access. The City is continuing its Zoning for Housing work begun in 2020 by exploring additional solutions to these long-standing challenges through proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.

Housing for All is the equity component of Zoning for Housing and will explore the extent of past discriminatory housing policies and their continued impact, especially on people of color and/or low-income. This initiative will also focus on how Alexandria can help ensure residual effects of past exclusionary housing provisions are identified and addressed in new policies under Zoning for Housing through the setting of equity goals and metrics for those policies.

These initiatives produced several recommendations for the City to pursue. These include:

  • Amending the zoning ordinance to better align with historic development patterns that residents have identified as desirable, such as those in the Parker-Gray, Rosement, Del Ray, and Old Town neighborhoods
  • Amending the Housing Master Plan to clarify the role of the Residential Multi-Family (RMF), allow more flexibility for ground floor uses and permit uses that currently require SUPs in that zone
  • Adding criteria to the Industrial zone that will make any future development more compatible with mixed-use or residential re-development
  • Establishing a policy that 1/3 of additional density in Coordinated Development Districts will be required to be affordable housing
  • Evaluating underdeveloped land near Metro stations and exploring removing parking minimums for affordable housing projects within ½ mile of stations
  • Supporting office conversions and encouraging affordable units in converted office buildings
  • Simplifying townhouse zoning districts
  • Allowing two-, three-, and four-unit buildings in a number of currently single-family-only residential zones, approximately 34% of the City’s area
  • Eliminating the definition of what a “family” is from the zoning ordinance, which currently limits who may live in a home together
  • Lowering or eliminating parking minimums for residential buildings up to four units within Enhanced Transit Areas and lowering them outside these areas

Status: Passed unanimously by City Council on November 28, 2023.

Next Steps:

  • Hybrid community meetings to gather feedback on the recommendations
  • Planning Commission work sessions
  • Writing and introducing ordinances
  • Public hearings in City Council and Planning Commissions
  • Vote on ordinances

Zoning for Housing/Housing for All (City of Alexandria Website)

City of Richmond: Short-term rental, parking, and ADU reforms

As a part of the City’s newest master plan “Richmond 300,” the Department of Planning and Development Review embarked on a series of community engagement meetings in 2022 related to the following proposed changes: 

After this community engagement campaign, the ordinance to remove parking minimums (Ord. No. 2023-101) was introduced on March 27th, 2023. It was adopted by City Council on April 24th, 2023. The ordinances to allow ADUs in all residential zones (Ord. No. 2023-196) was introduced on June 26th and continued several times. The ordinance to amend the Short-Term Rental regulations (Ord. No. 2023-235) was introduced on July 24th and underwent a series of debates and amendments before being adopted along with the ADU ordinance on September 25th.

There are now no minimum parking requirements for any new development anywhere within the City of Richmond. One ADU of 500 square feet or less is allowed per lot in any residential zone. Short-Term Rental regulations have been revised to better regulate STRs in the city.

Status: Passed.

City-Initiated Zoning Changes (City of Richmond website)

City of Richmond: Update TOD-1 District

Also as part of Richmond 300 and in response to the approval of the Diamond District development, the Department of Planning and Development Review is undertaking initiatives to rezone areas of the City to fit adopted plans and make changes to the Zoning Ordinance. In the spring of 2023, the City Planning Commission passed resolutions CPCR 2023-006, 2023007, and 2023-008 to authorize staff to begin developing amendments to the Zoning Ordinance related to changing the TOD-1 district, establishing a Stadium Signage Overlay district, and mapping the new Stadium Signage Overlay district. 

Status: TOD-1 amendments adopted by City Council on January 8, 2024 (Ord. 2023-369).

Next steps: 

  • Introduce ordinances to amend TOD-1 District, create a Stadium signage overlay, and amend the zoning map (to map the overlay) 
  • City Planning Commission and City Council hearings

City-Initiated Zoning Changes (City of Richmond website)

City of Richmond: Zoning ordinance rewrite

Identified as a “big move” in the Richmond 300 plan, the Department of Planning and Development Review is planning to begin a complete rewrite of the City’s zoning ordinance in fall 2023. The new ordinance is planned to be ready for adoption by the summer of 2026.

Status: In progress.

Next steps:

  • Begin community outreach and input processes

Richmond 300 (City of Richmond website)

City of Charlottesville: Zoning ordinance rewrite

In 2021, the Charlottesville city council approved both a new comprehensive plan and affordable housing plan that would allow more places to build housing all across the entire city. In September 2023, the planning and zoning department released the draft consolidated Zoning Ordinance for public review. An initial public hearing was held by the Planning Commission on September 14th. Public hearings were held throughout October and November, and the new zoning ordinance and map were adopted on December 18, 2023, effective February 19th, 2024.

Three key components of the new zoning ordinance related to housing are:

  • Proposed modification of zoning districts and land use map to increase density to at least three units per lot
  • Required inclusion of 10% affordable units in developments of 10 or more homes, in any zoning district
  • New affordable housing density bonuses in set districts 

Status: Adopted by City Council on December 18, 2023.

Next steps: 

  • Complete public comment and review for draft zoning ordinance 
  • Final zoning ordinance rewrite and zoning map to be completed

Module 1 of Draft Zoning Ordinance (City of Charlottesville website)

Cville Plans Together (Official site for comp plan and zoning process)

Topic Area Overviews (Cville Plans Together, PDF)

City of Roanoke: Zoning Reform for Complete Neighborhoods

Based on Roanoke’s most recent Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2020 (titled City Plan 2040), the city has been undertaking a campaign of zoning reforms which focus on the following priorities:

  • Harmony with Nature | Priority One: Sustainable Land Development
  • Interwoven Equity | Priority One: Trust
  • Interwoven Equity | Priority Three: Neighborhood Choice
  • Livable Built Environment | Priority Two: Complete Neighborhoods
  • Livable Built Environment | Priority Four: Housing
  • City Design | Land Use | Priority: Design for Permanence
  • City Design | Land Use | Priority: Purposeful Land Use

In 2021, three major zoning ordinance amendments were passed as the first wave of this initiative:

  • Removing minimum parking requirements citywide
  • Permitting Accessory Dwelling Units in all residential zones
  • Adding EV chargers and solar power facilities as accessory uses

Planning staff is currently drafting the next round of text amendments and holding open house events around the city. The City has also initiated a yard sign campaign supporting the zoning reform efforts.

Status: In progress.

Next Steps:

  • Continue community open house events
  • Draft further text amendments
  • Introduce amendments to City Council
  • Public hearings with Planning Commission and City Council

Plan Roanoke’s webpage for the zoning reform initiative

City Plan 2040 (Plan Roanoke website)

Citywide Housing Study (RKG Associates, 2020)

Efforts in Other States

Elsewhere across the country, governors and state lawmakers are introducing broad proposals to loosen land use restrictions following successful efforts in some states. Likewise, the number of local initiatives—both proposed and adopted—is growing. For a more thorough list of municipal efforts, see the Zoning Reform Tracker from the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley.


New York: New York Housing Compact

In January 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced a statewide strategy to address New York’s housing crisis, build 800,000 new homes over the next decade to meet the historic shortage, and support New York renters and homeowners as part of the 2023 State of the State. 

The ambitious strategy, titled the New York Housing Compact, will require all cities, towns, and villages to achieve new home creation targets on a three-year cycle. Under the Compact, localities will decide how to best meet their new home construction targets. From repurposing underutilized office parks and strip malls to offering new incentives towards multifamily buildings, localities can choose how to tailor their strategies to increase housing supply.

To encourage the inclusion of affordable housing as part of the new growth, affordable units will be assigned extra weight in calculating localities’ progress toward their goals.

Key goals of the compact: 

  • Require municipalities with MTA rail stations to rezone areas within half a mile of a station to allow for at least 25 homes per acre.
  • Require all cities, towns, and villages to achieve new home creation targets.
    • Downstate municipalities served by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority where the housing need is most acute, including New York City, will have a three percent (3%) new homes target over three years.
    • For municipalities in upstate counties, the new homes target will be one percent (1%) over three years.
  • Support municipalities with planning funding to undertake required Transit-Oriented Development rezonings or Preferred Actions to help them hit their growth targets. 

Status: Dropped from State budget negotiations.

Next steps: 

  • Governor exploring executive actions to incentivize housing growth.

New York Housing Compact (Governor Hochul announcement)

Response from lawmakers (NY Daily News article)

Interview with director of pro-housing organization Open New York (City & State New York)

Not included in State budget (Politico article)

New York: Pro-Housing Communities Incentives

After the New York Housing Compact failed, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced her administration would be exploring executive actions to accomplish some of the goals of the proposal. One executive action came about in the summer of 2023, Executive Order 30, which establishes a process for local governments to become designated Pr-Housing Communities (PHCs).

In order to be designated a PHC, localities must submit an application to the State’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal including a letter of intent, a copy of their zoning ordinance with provisions that encourage diverse and affordable housing, and documentation of building permits issued showing that their housing stock has increased

  • at least 1% over the past three years, or 0.33% over the past one year for Upstate localities
  • at least 3% over the past three years, or 1% over the past one year for Downstate localities

Once designated a PHC, a locality will be prioritized in applications to certain State funding initiatives, including:

  • Downtown Revitalization Initiative
  • New York Main Street Program
  • Mid-Hudson Momentum Fund
  • NY Forward Program
  • Regional Council Capital Fund
  • Market New York capital projects
  • Long Island Investment Fund
  • Public Transit Modernization Enhancement Program

Status: E.O. 30 signed July 2023.

Program Homepage (NY HCR Website)

Press Release (Governor’s Website)

News Coverage from Kingston, NY (Chronogram)

Colorado: More Housing Now 

On March 22, 2023, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) announced a comprehensive plan to help create more housing for every Colorado budget. ​​The Polis administration has laid out a sweeping package of reforms that would explicitly allow more dense housing across Colorado’s increasingly expensive metropolitan areas and resort communities, even if residents and local elected officials object to it.

The “More Housing Now” proposal would be a significant shift in how Colorado’s major cities and towns grow, and who has the ultimate power to shape that growth. The rural areas and small cities of the state are mostly exempt from this bill. 

Key proposed changes:

  • The end of single-family-only zoning in the state’s largest cities, metro areas, and mountain resort communities. 
  • Largest “Tier-1” cities must allow the construction of “middle housing,” defined as townhomes and multiplexes with up to six units, as well as accessory dwelling units, on lots in all residential neighborhoods.
    • NOTE: The bill would not require cities to actually build those denser options. 
  • If a local government fails to meet the “minimum standards” of the bill, the state would override local zoning rules and implement a standardized code instead. That standardized code would be developed by the state’s Department of Local Affairs.
  • Remove state-level regulations on housing, including:
    • Streamlining rules around manufactured homes
    • Removing minimum housing unit size restrictions in urban areas, except for fire and building code standards
    • Remove limits in state law on the number of unrelated people who can live together
    • Allow Accessory Dwelling Units

The proposal faces stiff resistance from some local leaders. The Colorado Municipal League has criticized the overall idea, saying that cities are in a better position to make decisions and the state should support them.

The bill was introduced in the Colorado Senate. The Senate passed a version of the bill that excluded all of the major points, except for the undertaking of a statewide housing study. The Colorado House of Representatives passed a version that maintained all of the key provisions. The two houses of the General Assembly failed to agree to a conference committee, where different versions of bills are reconciled, and the proposal fell through.

Status: Failed in conference committee.

The Colorado Way: What Coloradans are Saying About the Historic Housing Plan that Will Create More Affordable Housing Options  (Office of Governor Jared Polis)

Breakdown of Key Policies Proposed (CPR News article) 

Proposed Bill (Colorado General Assembly)

Bill fails in General Assembly (Colorado Politics article)

California: Building Homeownership

Introduced on March 28, 2023 by Sen Anna Caballero (D), SB 684 proposed new pathways to homeownership for middle-income Californians and communities of color by making it faster and easier to build smaller, more naturally-affordable homes near jobs, schools, transit, and other amenities.

The bill streamlines approvals for “starter” homes in infill developments of 10 homes or less in multi-family zones, and on vacant lots in single-family zones. The bill also amends the Subdivision Map Act, the California law that regulates the creation and improvement of subdivisions and lot splits, to make it faster and easier to build more housing on a single parcel of land, which will create more affordable, entry-level homes.

Projects that receive streamlining under SB 684 will still be required to protect existing housing that is designated for low-income tenants; is rent-controlled; or has been occupied by renters in the last 10 years. 

The bill passed unanimously in the California Senate on May 24. It was amended heavily by the California Assembly Appropriations Committee to no longer include single-family zones, effectively keeping smaller starter homes out of single-family neighborhoods. The amended version passed in the Assembly and was re-approved by the Senate on September 14.

Status: Compromised version without single-family zones signed into law on October 11, 2023. 

Context and overview of bill (California YIMBY)

Bill Fact Sheet (Office of Senator Caballero)

Statement on amendments made before passage (California YIMBY)

California: Eliminating parking minimums, mixed-income housing, ADU legalization 

In 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill eliminating parking requirements near transit and legalizing mixed-income multifamily housing in all commercial areas. That followed the statewide legalization of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in 2016, and a 2021 measure allowing property owners to split a single-family home or lot into duplexes or fourplexes. 

Status: Passed, but contested.

Opponents have challenged these sweeping changes, saying state and local legislative bodies are prohibited from passing laws invalidating voter-approved local land-use or zoning initiatives.

Connecticut: Desegregate and legalize ADUs

HB 6107, a sweeping reform bill passed in 2021, forbids local zoning that caps the number of multifamily housing units or discriminates against lower-income residents in a state where 90 percent of land is reserved for single-family homes as of right.

The package also legalizes ADUs, caps minimum parking requirements, enforces affordable housing targets, and eliminates the terms “character,” “overcrowding of land,” and “undue concentration of population” as the legal basis for zoning regulations.

Status: Passed.

Reforms included in Public Act 21-29 AKA HB 6107 (Desegregate Connecticut) 

Legislative Bill (General Assembly of Connecticut)

Montana: Statewide planning, zoning, and building code reforms

In Spring of 2023, the state legislature of Montana passed a slate of sweeping land use and building reforms to encourage housing development in the state’s largest cities.

Notably, all of the bills were sponsored by Republicans. The reforms were championed by the Frontier Institute which was responsible for the creation of the Montana Zoning Atlas, and which describes itself as believing in “more freedom, not more government.”

Proponents of the reforms played into Montanan’s fear of “becoming another California” to garner support for eliminating “California-Style Zoning” across the state, even though California itself made some of the same reforms in 2022.

The slate of bills included:

  • SB 245: requires larger cities to allow apartments to be built in most commercial zones
  • SB 323: requires larger cities to allow duplexes on all residential land
  • SB 328: requires larger cities to allocate space for population growth in their comprehensive plans
  • SB 406: prevents localities from enacting building codes stricter than the state building code
  • SB 528: requires localities to allow Accessory Dwelling Units on all single-family lots and prevents additional parking requirements, design requirements, or familial relationship requirements

Status: Passed.

Housing | Frontier Institute

Washington: Missing Middle Housing

In Spring of 2023, the state legislature of Washington passed E2SHB 1110, requiring all cities above a certain size threshold to allow buildings of 2-4 units in single-family residential zones. If a lot is within ¼-mile of a transit stop or if a proposal includes at least 2 affordable units, the minimum increases to 4-6. The law restricts minimum parking requirements on these lots on a sliding scale, with no parking requirements allowed for lots within ½-mile of a transit stop.

Status: Passed.

Washington: ADU Reform

The Washington legislature also passed EHB 1337, requiring all urban areas (counties included) to allow at least 2 Accessory Dwelling Units on all residential lots. Localities may not restrict the size of ADUs to less than 1,000 square feet, impose stricter development standards than those of the principal unit, require street improvements as a condition, require owner occupancy, or prevent condominium sale of ADUs.

Status: Passed.

Missing Middle and ADU explainer (Washington Municipal Research and Service Center)


Many localities: Eliminating parking minimums

According to the Parking Reform Network, over 600 cities across the country have (or are working toward) eliminating parking minimums for certain developments in their zoning code. Removing parking requirements is a proven method for reducing per-unit development costs by tens of thousands of dollars, especially in dense urban neighborhoods where structured parking is necessary.

Parking Reform Case Study
Fayetteville, Arkansas

In 2015, the Fayetteville City Council approved a proposal to completely eliminate minimum parking requirements for nonresidential properties. Planning Commissioners initiated this change out of a criticism of former laws not considering the location of the business and for using land law to make it more difficult to start small businesses and discouraged people from walking or riding bikes. They also resulted in a vast amount of empty parking lots that remain unused after large businesses closed or moved.

Six years after the zoning change, buildings previously identified as being perpetually and perhaps permanently unusable have been quickly purchased, redeveloped, and are in use.

Parking Minimum Removal Case Study (Sightline Institute)  

Zoning Ordinance Amendment (City of Fayetteville)

Boston, Massachusetts: Zoning code rewrite

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) released a report analyzing the city’s zoning code, prepared by Cornell University professor and Director of the National Zoning Atlas, Sara C. Bronin.

The report reveals that Boston’s zoning ordinance is nearly 4,000 pages long—40% larger than New York’s, a city with 13 times the population and 6 times as much land as Boston. The analysis calls the current code “complex, inconsistent, and inequitable,” and says it prevents Bostonians from making even small changes to their properties without hiring a lawyer and engaging with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The City’s Planning Department is responding to this immediately by restructuring its staff, creating new Comprehensive Planning and Zoning Compliance teams, as well as a new and much larger Zoning Reform team who will be leading the way toward a complete overhaul of the zoning code. The renewed Planning Department will be undertaking a Squares + Streets planning initiative to develop small area plans for Boston’s main streets and mixed-use centers.

While pursuing and implementing these community-led zoning changes, the Zoning Reform team will also be developing a strategy for a complete zoning code overhaul.

Status: In progress.

Next Steps:

  • Begin drafting edits to simplify existing zoning code
  • Initiate Squares + Streets small area planning process
  • Develop strategy for zoning code overhaul

BPDA Press Release

Squares + Streets initiative

Boston Globe article

Charlotte, North Carolina: Unified Development Ordinance

The City of Charlotte, North Carolina adopted a new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) in August 2022. The UDO replaces the City’s former zoning ordinance, subdivision ordinance, tree ordinance, streets and sidewalks ordinance, floodplain regulations, soil erosion & sedimentation control regulations, post-construction stormwater regulations, and driveway/access standards.

In alignment with the City’s Charlotte Future 2040 comprehensive plan, the UDO makes some key reforms to zoning in the fast-growing city, including allowing duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in many previously single-family-only zones.

Status: Passed.

Charlotte UDO Website

Charlotte Observer article

Raleigh, North Carolina: ADU Reform

In 2020, the Raleigh City Council approved an ordinance allowing Accessory Dwelling Units by right in any residential zone. ADUs are limited to one per lot and cannot be larger than the primary dwelling, with a maximum size of 1,000 square feet. This replaced an earlier process for building ADUs that required property owners to get their neighbors together and sign a petition to be entered into an ADU overlay district.

In 2022, the City released a set of pre-approved designs for ADUs to speed up the permitting process.

Status: Passed.

Building an ADU (City of Raleigh website)

INDY Week Article

Raleigh, North Carolina: Missing Middle Reform

In 2022, Raleigh City Council passed two text changes (TC-5-20, TC-20-21) to the zoning code allowing for duplexes and townhomes to be built in all residential zones. The text changes also added a definition for “Tiny Homes” in the zoning code and allows them to be built either alone or in cottage court-style clusters.

Status: Passed.

What is Missing Middle? (City of Raleigh website)

News & Observer Article

Durham, North Carolina: Expanding Housing Choices

In 2019, the City and County of Durham adopted a text amendment to their Unified Development Ordinance that allowed duplexes and ADUs up to 800 square feet to be built on single-family lots in urban and some suburban areas and made more allowances for smaller lot sizes and flag lots. The amendment, called Expanding Housing Choices, also included a provision requiring the planning department to report back to the municipality on how many building permits, lot splits, demolition permits, and other approvals had been issued that were allowed by the EHC amendment.

As of November 2022, the EHC had enabled 407 additional building permits to be issued in Durham.

Status: Passed.

Expanding Housing Choices (City of Durham website)

HUD User article

INDY Week article

Minneapolis, Minnesota: 2040 Plan

The City of Minneapolis in its 2040 comprehensive plan set out to build more housing in many of the city’s low-density, single-family neighborhoods by allowing the construction of ADUs, duplexes, and other higher-density housing. The City had adopted the comprehensive plan and had planned to introduce zoning ordinance amendments eliminating single-family zoning to City Council.

A group of environmentalist organizations brought a lawsuit against the City in 2019, alleging that by not assessing the potential environmental impact of increasing density, the City violated the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act. The plaintiffs argue that increasing density without explicit requirements for maintaining green space will lead to negative environmental impacts such as tree canopy loss, green space loss, and increased water runoff. It should be noted that the negative environmental impacts of continuing urban and suburban sprawl are well-documented.

Other activists argue that the 2040 plan would allow for more rental housing to be built without protecting or encouraging homeownership opportunities, especially for low-income residents and people of color. The Minneapolis-St. Paul region famously has the largest racial homeownership gap in the country.

Status: Struck down by Hennepin County District Court. City may appeal decision but has not made any announcement yet.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune article

Anchorage, Alaska: “Bonus home” reform

Earlier in 2023 Anchorage lawmakers adopted a package of policy changes to make ADUs (“bonus homes”) easier to build throughout the city. This was a direct response to city demographics trending toward smaller household sizes—and subsequent losses in population.

The reforms permit ADUs by-right on many new types of properties, roll back design requirements, and remove an owner-occupancy requirement. These changes also follow the successful elimination of parking mandates by the city last year.

Status: Passed.

Anchorage adopts model ADU reforms (Sightline)

Accessory dwelling units draft informational sheet (Anchorage Planning Department, PDF)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Growing MKE Initiative

Milwaukee’s Department of City Development has introduced a two-phase plan to allow increased densities across the city with fewer regulatory barriers and public hearing requirements. Draft recommendations were presented in November 2023, with input provided by City officials and the public over the winter. Milwaukee DCD is currently preparing the full draft plan to be presented sometime in late spring or early summer 2024.

The Growing MKE plan would consist of a series of text amendments to the zoning code, allowing for greater density without public hearings, including ADUs on certain lots.

Status: In progress.

Growing MKE page (Milwaukee DCD)

Urban Milwaukee news coverage

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