Want to help the housing market? Legalize accessory dwelling units
WASHINGTON (Mar. 21, 2017) – Liberalizing zoning rules for accessory dwelling units could be low-profile free-market solution to supply and affordability constraints in many local housing markets, according to a new policy study by Jonathan Coppage, a visiting senior fellow with the R Street Institute.
“Much of the American built environment was constructed in the post-World War II era, when government policy and planning fashion centered on the primacy of the single-family detached home,” writes Coppage. “Subsequent developments in zoning law privileged this housing arrangement, often to the detriment of any neighborhood diversity of land use or building form. This needs to change.”
Right now, there are federal-level financing reforms that could further ease accessory dwelling unit development. At the local level, governments already possess all the tools needed to take advantage of accessory dwelling unit construction without asking permission or seeking assistance from any higher bureaucracy.
“Accessory dwelling units will not solve housing affordability crises by themselves, nor will they be suited to widespread adoption in every market. But there is little reason for towns and cities to persist in outlawing a flexible housing form that was widespread in the first half of the 20th century, just because it fell afoul of trendy regulations in the second half,” notes Coppage.
R Street is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization whose mission is to promote free markets and limited, effective government. It has headquarters in Washington, D.C. and five regional offices across the country. Its website is www.rstreet.org.