Sunday, March 03, 2024

Chaos Erupts During Nest Meeting. Changes Zoning Rules to Allow More Housing is a National Trend and is often Resisted.

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by Rod Williams, March 3, 2024- Yesterday I attempted to attend the NEST meeting at Belmont University but could not get in. The meeting had been moved from another location to the Belmont location in order to accommodate a larger anticipated crowd, but there must have been a hundred people outside who still could not get in.  From the talk in the crowded hall, it seems I was one of the few waiting to get in who actually tends to favor the proposals before us.  People in the hall and outside wanting to get in were upset. And as people are wont to do, they saw their inability to get in as a plot to keep them from being heard. And being heard, I think, is what the people attending wanted.  I don't think they were in a mood to listen. From the reports on local TV, the people who did get in were not happy. During the meeting, there was yelling, chanting and general chaos, it is reported. 

If you are not familiar with NEST, it is a group of nine bills that would make changes to zoning laws and among other things allow quadplexes to be built where there are currently single-family homes and eliminate the lot size requirements. It is designed to increase housing affordability and increase the price range choice for housing in Nashville. 

Up until the early 80's duplexes could be built on any residentially zoned lot in Nashville except in the satellite cities within Davidson County. Council meeting by council meeting for many years, neighborhood after neighborhood were rezoned single-family only. In the post on this blog I consistently pointed out the consequences of these zoning changes. These zoning changes obviously restricted the supply of housing. Another way in which we restrict supply is our zoning prohibits residential housing from being built in areas zoned commercial. Where you do see residential over businesses that is the result of a rezoning, such cannot be built as a matter of right. 

This restriction on density cannot help but restrict the supply of housing.  With a restriction on supply, prices rise. In addition to rising home prices in Nashville we see the countryside gobbled up by subdivisions and our roadways crowded with commuters. I understand the opposition to the proposals. People who have a nice quite single-family neighborhood want to keep it.  However, you cannot "preserve the character" of Nashville neighborhoods and have affordable housing and avoid urban sprawl and commuter traffic. It is common to want contradictory things. I want some contradictory things. "You can't have your cake and eat it too," is a well-known maxim. There is nothing wrong with preferring to preserve the character of your neighborhood over affordable housing and combating urban sprawl, but one should not pretend it is not a choice. Of course, it is not a binary choice, one can have more of one and less of the other and try to strike a balance between contradictory things. 

Restricting supply has consequences.  I am pleased to see a recognition of this economic truth. Often it is liberals who deny the science of economics but in Nashville as other places, it is progressives who are leading the effort to reform zoning codes to allow a greater housing supply. Will the proposed changes, if passed, result in more affordable housing?  It is not a certainty.  There are other variables. Economic laws are sort of like gravity. Just because an airplane can stay in the air does not mean the law of gravity does not apply. Economic laws are also like gravity in that if you don't believe in gravity and step off of a ledge you will still fall. Economics is a science. Supply and demand is a fact. Allowing greater density may not immediately solve the problem of affordable housing, but it influences the trend line.  

It is gratifying to see people recognize the truth of economics. It is happening all over the country.  

The hottest trend in U.S. cities? Changing zoning rules to allow more housing.

by Laurel Wamsley, NPR, FEBRUARY 17, 2024 - America is facing a housing crisis.

The U.S. is short millions of housing units. Half of renters are paying more than a third of their salary in housing costs, and for those looking to buy, scant few homes on the market are affordable for a typical household.

To ramp up supply, cities are taking a fresh look at their zoning rules that spell out what can be built where and what can't. And many are finding that their old rules are too rigid, making it too hard and too expensive to build many new homes.

So these cities, as well as some states, are undertaking a process called zoning reform. They're crafting new rules that do things like allow multifamily homes in more neighborhoods, encourage more density near transit and streamline permitting processes for those trying to build.

One city has been at the forefront of these conversations: Minneapolis.

That's because Minneapolis was ahead of the pack as it made a series of changes to its zoning rules in recent years: allowing more density downtown and along transit corridors, getting rid of parking requirements, permitting construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are secondary dwellings on the same lot.

And one change in particular made national news: The city ended single-family zoning, allowing two- and three-unit homes to be built in every neighborhood. (read more)

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