Let’s get ZONED IN

Our new zoning education initiative will engage local and regional leaders about land use, affordability, and racial equity.

Yesterday, we ZONED OUT at the Governor’s Housing Conference. We heard all about the problems zoning creates for housing affordability, along with some solutions we can try today. But there’s much more we need to do. That’s why it’s time for us to get ZONED IN.

We’re past due for a reckoning on our zoning laws.

Today, zoning often boxes Virginians into a singular vision of what home means. It also continues to disproportionately impact Black and lower-income Virginians in their paths to greater economic opportunities.

Recently, we are thankful that zoning and land use have finally risen to the top of housing discussions in Virginia. Multiple reports—from JLARC, McGuireWoods, and DHCD—now shine a brighter light on the detrimental impacts zoning has on our efforts to increase the supply of affordable homes.

Governor Glenn Youngkin, too, has referenced the need to reform restrictive land use policies:

“The cost to rent or buy a home is too expensive… We must tackle root causes behind this supply and demand mismatch; unnecessary regulations, overburdensome and inefficient local governments, restrictive zoning policies, and an ideology of fighting tooth and nail against any new development.”

Now is the opportunity to rethink zoning for housing affordability, not exclusion.

A cross-sector consensus is forming that recognizes the mistakes of our past and the clear need to remedy them. However, three challenges stand in the way: an entrenched status quo, a limited understanding of the messy details, and a vacuum of clearly-defined solutions.

ZONED IN is our response to those challenges. 

Early next year, HousingForward Virginia will launch ZONED IN, a comprehensive zoning education initiative to bring together local and regional leaders across the Commonwealth to discuss the connections between zoning regulations, racial disparities, and housing affordability.

Our goals are clear. First, we will equip these leaders with the messaging tools necessary to have productive conversations about zoning reform in their own communities.

We will also help design plain-language educational materials that explain the impacts of zoning, using real-life, familiar examples.

Finally, we will guide participants in the design of new solutions that expand housing opportunity and racial equity through land use reform. These solutions will be evidence-based and tailored to each respective community.

Here’s what’s next.

Over the next few months, we’ll be working behind the scenes to start this work in one region of the state. Look for an official announcement not long into the new year.

In the meantime, get in touch if you’d like to support us, partner with us, or see us get ZONED IN in your neck of the woods.

Looking forward,

Jonathan Knopf
Executive Director for Programs

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