What Local Policies Will Increase Housing Choices?
The plans are updated every 10 years with the next updates due in 2018. There are two key requirements with respect to housing as guided by the Metropolitan Council:
- A land use plan including a housing element containing standards, plans and programs for providing adequate housing opportunities to meet existing and projected local and regional housing needs, such as the use of official controls and land use planning to promote the availability of land for the development of low and moderate income housing; and
- An implementation program describing public programs, fiscal devices and other specific actions to be undertaken in stated sequence including official controls to implement the housing element of the land use plan, which will provide sufficient existing and new housing to meet the local unit's share of the metropolitan area need for low and moderate income housing.
Housing choices allow households to find housing affordable to them in the communities where they want to live. A full range of housing types can help increase resiliency as local governments experience changing demographics and economic conditions. Housing elements are an opportunity to state a local government's specific policy priorities around housing choice within their community. In addition, when key stakeholders have a clear idea of the overall goals then housing goals are much more likely to be achieved in a timely manner. This implies including multiple perspectives on the table when crafting the municipality's vision and plan–those of residents, business owners, school officials, public health advocates, etc.
To prepare a plan that contains innovative and flexible housing policies a good deal of evaluation and study are needed. The demographics of an area and the existing conditions are critical to gaining an understanding of what changes are needed. The tools and strategies to accomplish this must be identified through repeated dialogues with stakeholders and policy leaders.
In a demonstration of how this can be accomplished, ULI Minnesota and the Regional Council of Mayors embarked on a Housing Initiative that included the Opportunity City Pilot Program in 2009. (Click here to view the summary report.)
The Opportunity City Program framework is a comprehensive, centralized, sustainable, learning community that provides support and resources to local leaders. It assists them in working toward a full range of housing choices within their community. Funding support from the Family Housing Fund was instrumental in making this program possible and while the program's deep technical assistance to Cities is no longer available the resources and framework are still applicable to Cities as they consider new housing policies as part of their comprehensive plan update.
Also, HousingPolicy.org provides resources for building a housing strategy including important considerations in the creation a housing plan.
How do strong local housing policies help to expand opportunities for a full range of housing choices?
In addition, even with the development of a comprehensive and sound plan there are still many misunderstandings of the value of providing housing choices and a mix of housing types. Oftentimes there is angry resistance to projects that include a mix of housing types and incomes. Local housing policies should include the following components in order to reduce such problems and expand opportunities within the housing stock:
- Promote the benefits of a mix of housing types, including support for more compact development, to the public's self-interest by establishing partners to tell the story. These include lower costs, more efficient delivery of public services, increased transportation options, and environmental preservation. In addition, a more diverse community adds enrichment to the daily life as well as enables access to more resources and amenities: from entertainment options and cultural events to food choices.
- Educate members of the community regarding the value of density prior to responding to a particular proposal. Local policies should support proactive strategies instead of reacting to specific proposals.
- Broaden public meeting attendance by reaching out and engaging the latent citizen majority as well as young and emerging leaders.
What methods are needed to ensure that local housing policies are effective in achieve housing goals?
A comprehensive housing strategy is an approach used by a growing number of localities to ensure their policies are well-coordinated and well-tailored to meet their objectives. In its broadest form, a comprehensive housing strategy focuses on issues of housing supply, affordability, and quality. The goal of this strategy is the provision of affordable, available and safe housing for families of all income levels. Some communities choose to take a more strategic approach by developing a housing plan to assist a more specific population segment, such as aging residents, working families and young professionals.
Providing methods to update local regulatory tools combined with strong local leadership allows the programs that encourage a mix of housing and creates a prosperous, livable community for everyone.
A recent detailed discussion of regulatory and financial tools was completed for the Minneapolis-St. Paul region as part of the Minnesota Challenge to reduce the costs of affordable housing.
Related Case Studies
All new residential housing projects in the City of Maple Grove must be submitted as a Planned Unit Development and are scored using a Project Points System (PPS) scoring guide...
Woodbury Housing Implementation
Woodbury’s 2008 housing implementation plan is a very good example of providing for a full range of housing choices by adopting flexible regulatory and using numerous financial tools...
MN Challenge to Lower the Cost of Affordable Housing
In 2014, Minnesota Housing, the McKnight Foundation, ULI Minnesota/the Regional Council of Mayors, and Enterprise Community Partners sponsored Minnesota Challenge, an “idea competition” to solicit research proposals...