Red tape surrounding single-family zoning is one of the main obstacles in the way of providing more affordable housing, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has said.
During a presentation in Minnesota this week, the secretary pointed to Minneapolis as a prime example of a city addressing homelessness by eliminating single-family zoning.
Carson reckons that the costs of housing are being driven up by state and local governments implementing too many regulations.
“Our country is facing serious housing affordability challenges,” Carson said. “Too many families can’t afford a home mortgage, and too many Americans face high rent prices … We must do more to increase supply and bring down housing costs by reducing state and local regulations and zoning restrictions.”
Minneapolis City Council approved a new ordinance last December that removed single-family zoning in the city. The ruling paved the way for the city to add more density to single-family neighborhoods, and officials believe they’re now able to tackle housing affordability issues head on by ending segregation. Previously, around 60% of Minneapolis had been zoned for single-family homes only.
“The correlation seems very strong: the more zoning restrictions and regulations, the higher the prices and the more homeless people,” Carson said. “I don’t think there’s anybody that wants to see homelessness and squalor. We just have to start utilizing the facts and utilizing the evidence to create the policies.”
Carson has targeted government regulations that prevent the addition of more housing the past. Last May for example, he criticized California’s mandate that all new homes built from 2020 onwards must have solar panels. He said this will increase the cost of new homes in a state that already has some of the most expensive prices in the nation.
“Regulations such as density limitations, height restrictions, parking requirements, lengthy permitting and approval processes, and ‘not in my backyard’ … opposition are the primary reason for housing supply restrictions and increased housing costs,” Carson said at a May 17 meeting in Washington, D.C. “HUD is working with local public officials, business leaders and community leaders to mobilize support for smart but significant deregulation at the local level.”