The American Jobs Act goes after Exclusionary Zoning

Guest Correspondence


When President Joe Biden was candidate Joe Biden, he was very clear on his position on affordable housing. Local and state regulations were an affordable housing problem that also led to other problems in climate change and transportation. No one should be surprised that President Biden, within his first six months in office, has called on Congress to pass significant policy on affordable housing.

President Biden is trying to get his affordable housing policy passed in the American Jobs Plan. The White House fact sheet on the Biden proposal for the American Jobs Plan calls for $213 billion towards affordable housing. This ask coincided with a significant policy statement,” It pairs this investment with an innovative new approach to eliminate state and local exclusionary laws, which drive up the cost of construction and keep families from moving to neighborhoods with more opportunities for them and their kids.”

The plan elaborates on how this should unfold: “For decades, exclusionary zoning laws – like minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing – have inflated housing and construction costs and locked families out of areas with more opportunities. President Biden is calling on Congress to enact an innovative, new competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate such needless barriers to producing affordable housing.”

This is a dramatic federal policy statement for local governments. But the President has been consistent on this policy, that was first introduced during the Obama Presidency, and was adopted by Biden in his campaign. There is no actual implementing language to this proposal yet, but President Biden has been clear about wanting this legislation to pass this summer.

Make no mistake about it, eliminating exclusionary zoning means that a diversity of housing types will co-exist, multi-family mixed with single family housing. What this translates to is an increase in density, which must occur for the Biden policy to be effective. 

In an NBC article published just after the American Jobs Plan was unveiled, it was reported that this idea has bipartisan support in Congress and that a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressmen and Congresswoman have drafted recent legislation to do what President Biden is calling for. According to the NBC article written by Jonathan Allen, This bill “would create a grant fund of $300 million a year for cities, towns, and counties that remove regulatory zoning and land-use barriers to the construction of affordable housing.”

America is on the precipice of a new dawn on federal affordable housing policy and local zoning and land use regulations. Local governments need to begin to prepare for this new policy and neighborhoods need to understand that change must happen and density must increase to begin to effectively tackle the growing problem of affordable housing.

Christine Robinson is executive director of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Image from Pixabay

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