Tags: Biden Administration | biden | infrastructure plan | housing | zoning

Biden Infrastructure Plan Aims to Promote Affordable Housing in Cities

apartment building construction
An aerial view of construction workers roofing an apartment complex on May 27, 2020 in Uniondale, New York. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 April 2021 02:34 PM

President Joe Biden is pushing cities to focus on constructing affordable housing and apartment units in areas that have been traditionally zoned for single-family housing as part of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, USA Today reports.

The current zoning laws have come under fire by liberal activists for favoring single-family homes, a practice known as exclusionary zoning, which many low-income Americans are unable to afford, something Democrats say leads to racial segregation. The proposal from Biden would provide cities with grants and tax credits for changing their zoning laws to allow for more affordable housing.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge told the newspaper that the administration is trying to support communities that work to end the longtime zoning practices that frequently discriminate against people of color.

"The result of this sort of investment will be critical to increasing housing options for low- and moderate-income families," she said.

Some mayors have already announced their support for the initiative, including Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka, who said that his administration will “take full advantage” of the additional funding being offered to help support plans to improve access to affordable housing for non-white residents.

"We also need more funding to create solutions such as two and three-family homes," Baraka said. 

Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss added she will wait until she can review the details of the bill to commit, but said her city was “ahead of the curve” by ending exclusionary zoning more than 10 years ago.

However, some cities have already come out against the proposition.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told USA Today that his city isn’t ready to eliminate single-family zoning even though they have made changes to make housing development more equitable.

"This is quality of life infrastructure that helps build communities, not just buildings," he said. "It wasn’t about eliminating single-family zoning – which our update did not do – it was about promoting assets every community needed to have a good quality of life."

Those who oppose the idea of eliminating single-family housing restrictions claim that multifamily housing causes property values to decrease and the increased density of people stresses cities' infrastructure systems.

"A legitimate reason for regulating density is to assure that the density of the residential environment is appropriate for the existing public infrastructure," wrote Gerritt Knapp and Nicholas Finio, urban planners from the University of Maryland, College Park, in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

Supporters of the proposal argue that zoning changes are necessary in response to both increased population density in cities and climate-related effects, particularly on low-income residents. They also say it helps eliminate perceived racial, class, or economic biases in mortgage companies and other organizations, a practice that's become known as redlining.

"Though the maps may no longer have red lines on them, the patterns and boundaries they established are much harder to undo," said Florida attorney Stephanie Rosendorf, who is also an urban policy teaching assistant at Harvard Extension School. 

Said former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro: "Too often, zoning regulations trap low-income families, especially families of color, in segregated neighborhoods and price them out of housing opportunity."

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President Joe Biden is pushing cities to focus on constructing affordable housing and apartment units in areas that have been traditionally zoned for single-family housing as part of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan...
biden, infrastructure plan, housing, zoning
Wednesday, 14 April 2021 02:34 PM
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