Updated April 3, 2023
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.
|Reform Status||✅ Successful||🔼 Introduced||⏩ In-progress||⛔ Failed / tabled|
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.
Missing Middle Housing Study (Arlington County website)
Missing Middle Arlington (Website by Alliance for Housing Solutions)
⏩ 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 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, 2023–007, 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. This follows a series of community engagement meetings in 2022 related to the following proposed changes:
- Revise Short-Term Rental Regulations (CPC Resolution of Intent – CPCR.2021.168)
- Eliminate Parking Space Minimums (City Council Resolution – RES. 2021-R027)
- Permit Accessory Dwelling Units (CPC Resolution of Intent – CPCR.2021.095)
Status: Ordinance to remove parking minimums passed unanimously by City Council (Ord. No 2023-101).
- 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
Three Zoning Changes (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. As of April 2023, the planning and zoning department is rolling out the draft zoning ordinance rewrite for public input.
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: In progress.
- 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)
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: Introduced. Initial negotiations underway.
- Governor and legislative leaders will negotiate final budget details ahead of the state’s fiscal deadline in April.
- Strengthen existing legislation to meet State Housing Plan (2022) and Housing Compact goals (2023)
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)
🔼 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.
Status: Introduced and sent to Colorado Senate.
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)
🔼 California: Building Homeownership
Introduced on March 28, 2023 by Sen Anna Caballero (D), SB 684 proposes 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 will also amend 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.
Status: Introduced. Set for hearing April 12, 2023 in the California Senate.
Context and overview of bill (California YIMBY)
Bill Fact Sheet (Office of Senator Caballero)
✅ 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.
Reforms included in Public Act 21-29 AKA HB 6107 (Desegregate Connecticut)
Legislative Bill (General Assembly of Connecticut)
✅ 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
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)
✅ 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.
Anchorage adopts model ADU reforms (Sightline)
Accessory dwelling units draft informational sheet (Anchorage Planning Department, PDF)
More to come
Keep tabs on this page to check progress of ongoing reforms and find new examples we’ve added. Some of these include:
- The Montana Zoning Atlas and related policy proposals
- A missing middle housing bill in the Washington legislature
- Preemptive efforts to limit parking requirements near transit in Montgomery County, Maryland
- Successful zoning reform packages in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina