Why Multi-Family Zoning is Easier Than You Might Think
Zoning requirements sound like they would make building significantly more challenging in residential areas. However, that’s not the case, particularly not now. The winds are changing. New zoning codes and alterations to city planning, property rules, and permitted construction in certain areas make building in the following conditions more straightforward.
Cultural Changes Are Making Multifamily Zoning Easier
Planned unit development used to involve asking who the ideal market was and then constructing the new residential district accordingly. In many cases, it was just single families with professional incomes looking for housing in larger cities. Hence, zoning regulations mostly applied to a small subset of people.
However, city policies are changing, and so are the zoning permits. Authorities are demanding that developers build properties and related services in neighborhoods that reflect the needs of the community. City planners want affordable housing intended for all residents of the community. And the best way to do that is to build more multi-family residential property.
In some cities, zoning laws are actually on the property investor and housing developers’ side. Zoning dictates how the property will be used, whether the building is a single dwelling unit or mixed-use structure. Zoning restrictions for the building will include maximum height, lot line, and minimum lot area distance mandates and rules for single-family versus multi-family residential permits in any given area.
Loosening Regulations Are Improving Multifamily Zoning Options
At the same time, we’re witnessing a relaxation of single-family zoning rules. Columbus, Ohio, is projected to grow by nearly one million by 2050. As the population grows, Columbus will likely face increasing challenges to maintain affordable and available housing. Other states and cities facing similar growth, such as Oregon and Minneapolis, have re-evaluated or changed single-family zoning codes to promote better housing choices and affordability. These models could provide potential pathways to ensure Columbus remains sustainable and affordable, even as the population expands. For instance, cities such as Minneapolis and the State of Oregon are both passing laws that change single-family regulations and parcel requirements following a public consultation.
Again, the hope is to create more diverse communities. Single-family zoning requirements restrict access to some residential regions, and existing building rules have made building new developments challenging. Neighborhoods would invariably feature only low-level single-family homes, while city officials often shot down proposed multi-story buildings.
However, planners recognize that single-family zoning laws prevent many people from accessing specific communities. They want to see more multifamily zoning, increasing multifamily residential options. Apartment building, therefore, is a necessity in single-family home-dominated areas.
Upzoning Won’t Create Community Backlash
A residential district may worry about “Manhattanization” or the fear that new construction will dominate existing buildings and that residential communities will go vertical with multiple families on the same lot. Residents also worry about vacant lots, a lack of open space, and pressure on land.
However, maximum height restrictions can prevent this from happening. New structures or buildings in certain areas will still need to follow multi-family zoning guidelines. The maximum height of residential construction will not go above the level set out by zoning laws.
Tenants Have More Protection Than Ever Before
Developers are also finding it easier to proceed because of the ability to promise those in existing housing protection by implementing rules to prevent multi-family zoning issues from damaging home values.
Developers, for instance, can specify the principal use of planned unit development. They can also construct structures and housing designed to appeal to people of higher income.
Minimum lot area can remain high on a new property, spreading buildings across neighborhoods. Developers can also determine parking requirements like using a garage, accessory buildings, or the ability to park close to housing units, appealing more to individuals who own vehicles in the city.
It is Easy to Manage Strains on Infrastructure
Many existing single-family residents worry that giving a building permit for multifamily zoning in their residential area will lead to housing and buildings that put pressure on existing structures. Parking requirements may increase, the minimum distance between structures will fall, and yards may be overlooked. Commercial businesses may also come under strain trying to meet the needs of all the new customers in the neighborhood.
However, infrastructure restrictions and related issues can be overcome. Things like limiting street parking requirements and adding amenity projects to proposals can help.
Single Family Homes are Still Allowed
While multifamily residential offers benefits, it doesn’t mean the end of single-family housing development. Principle use property rules may have changed, but developers can make exceptions. For instance, zoning codes combine single-family and multifamily units into a single development.
What’s more, there is evidence that current single-family zoning regulations may be letting people down. Many individuals want to live in denser areas, so long as they have off-street parking and are close to amenities.
Developers Can Rejuvenate Undeveloped Areas
Lastly, developers can use multifamily developments to rejuvenate neglected parts of the city. Building low-cost housing and other structures can help new residents move to the area. Urban Infill projects are a great way to rejuvenate residential districts in areas that need it most.
Takeaways for Multifamily Residential Lot Zoning Requirements
Ultimately, when developers consult with people living in local residential property and observe the zoning codes, building tall in residential areas becomes more manageable. Structures, however, need to abide by maximum height and minimum lot area regulations and serve as an example of the type of residential development permitted in your city.