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Thread: Maximum lot size requirements as a tool for retaining housing affordability

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Maximum lot size requirements as a tool for retaining housing affordability

    We have two areas of our community that have retained small lot sizes and small affordable (for some, but certainly not all) homes.

    My fear is that the real estate market here will target these areas in the near future for teardowns, lot consolidations, single family residential redevelopment resulting in a loss of affordability.

    Anyone have any experience (positive or negative) with regulating maximum lot sizes as a tool for retaining housing affordability?
    Last edited by SGB; 23 Aug 2005 at 1:50 PM.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
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    Cyburbian
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    Does your state require a certain percentage of the city to be low income? I think most states do, so you may be able to show that it dramatically reduces your low income housing stock, which may make you noncompliant with state or federal discrimination laws. If you do that, you may create some unintended consequences. You also may run into some property rights issues.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    We have two areas of our community that have retained small lot sizes and small affordable (for some, but certainly not all) homes.

    My fear is that the real estate market here will target these areas in the near future for teardowns, lot consolidations, single family residential redevelopment resulting in a loss of affordability.

    Anyone have any experience (positive or negative) with regulating maximum lot sizes as a tool for retaining housing affordability?
    IIRC (and I could be wrong here), Jefferson County, WI has a legal maximum lot size for its unincorporated areas. It is not to ensure 'affordability', rather it is to prevent premature development of the county's prime farm land, located along of I-94 between Madison and Milwaukee, WI.

    I do like that idea, BTW.

    Mike

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    Member DRJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    We have two areas of our community that have retained small lot sizes and small affordable (for some, but certainly not all) homes.

    My fear is that the real estate market here will target these areas in the near future for teardowns, lot consolidations, single family residential redevelopment resulting in a loss of affordability.

    Anyone have any experience (positive or negative) with regulating maximum lot sizes as a tool for retaining housing affordability?
    Does your jurisdiction have regulations for lot coverage. This may be one way to address this issue indirectly.

    Also, many communities in the Atlanta area are regulating "infill" development. DeKalb County, Georgia just did an expansive expansive stakeholder and public involvement effort to study the issue and determine some community preferred alternatives. I think one of the alternatives was the regulating of maximum lot size.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cololi
    Does your state require a certain percentage of the city to be low income?
    I don't believe so.

    Quote Originally posted by cololi
    You also may run into some property rights issues.
    We are used to it. These nice folks are based just up the road a ways from us.

    Quote Originally posted by DRJ
    Does your jurisdiction have regulations for lot coverage? This may be one way to address this issue indirectly.
    We do, but they (either minimum permiability or FAR standards) do not provide any deterent to those interested in redevelopment on larger consolidated lots. In fact, these type of regs probably encourage lot consoldition.

    I'll definately take a look at Dekalb County GA's efforts.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    We have a lot size distribution requirement to our R1 District. In new neighbourhoods, a certain percentage of lots must be 10 m (32.81 ft) wide, a certain percentage 11.5 to 12.2. m wide (37.73 ft to 40 ft), etc. Also, we have a maximum lot size in the R1 district of 2,000 sq. m (approx. 1/2 acre). Only one neighbourhood tends to have the larger lots and only one lot approaches the 1/2 acre size, so usually it is a non-issue.

    Our residential land use districts (including the R1) can be found in this link (pdf).

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    wait!

    imho, the only way to assure affordable housing is to require it to be deeded as such - small lots just may mean big houses on small lots - but as you know, you can't do that by right, so it has to be part of some incentive zoning program

    it raises the question of what influence government truly has on the market - is the market influenced by our zoning as highest and best use or is it

    if the land is worth more than the house it sits upon, then it's destined to be a tear-down in the future - so run the numbers on land prices to see if it's worth more than a little 2-3 bedroom cape/ranch

    against my advice, i had a town that reduced lot sizes in some districts to encourage affordable hosuing but the market was such that the smaller lots created were still in a high range and housed a 4 bedroom mcmansion

    the other way to go about controlling things, though is to do an FAR - good luck explaining that in a public hearing, i had my head handed to me once that; it can be tough - but it's really another useful tool to prevent large homes on small lots when you are trying for small bulk and affordable neighborhoods

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Try....

    The City of Arvada, Colorado had a lot size rule a couple of years ago that was "intended" to lower the cost of 15%?? of the new housing stock.....check out their web site and code:

    http://ci.arvada.co.us/3.cfm?page_ID=589&active=y
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    The City of Arvada, Colorado had a lot size rule a couple of years ago that was "intended" to lower the cost of 15%?? of the new housing stock.....check out their web site and code:

    http://ci.arvada.co.us/3.cfm?page_ID=589&active=y
    Thanks for the code link. Interesting......

    For those playing along at home or office, see Section 6.10 of the Arvada code. It looks like an inclusionary housing requirement w/ a maximum lot size provision for the affordable units.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    My sense is that local government planning agencies cannot control housing affordability, nor should it, necessarily.

    Land prices have so much to do with this. Can Staff control the price of lumber, financing mechanisms, sub-contractor availability etc...?

    But I think it may make good planning and design sense to consider maximums, so houses can be scaled appropriately neighborhood to neighborhood.

    And, housing size and affordability can have nothing to do with one another depending upon the maket. Take Northern VA. Condos in the 350's, Town's in the 500's and singles in the 600-700's and yes, even for the crummy 1800 sf rambler.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Is it the role of Planning Commissions to assure "affordable housing?"

    I think it was in New Orleans that lots were allowed to be in 25 or 30 foot wide incriments. The thinking was that those who could afford only one lot would buy only one lot. And if you wanted a bigger house, you could buy two or three or more as you needed to fit your house. The problem? All houses were 25 feet wide with a 5 foot alley between them! So much for "affordable housing" by lot size!

    And then there is the disasterous "rent control" to assure "affordable housing." Landlords could not afford to maintain their properties, so they abandoned them to the mortgage company. New York can attest to the failure of rent control.

    In my opinion Planning Commissions should strive to make the community as "liveable" as possible, thereby attracting people that appreciate such a thing. Others will be inspired to say, "Wow, that's nice. One day I would like to live there!" And that will inspire hard work and accomplishment so they can "afford" to live in such a community. Then we will all benefit by those efforts.

    Another program outside of Planning made houses affordable - FHA. Banks lending money at low rates over many years allowed many who previously could not afford to buy or save for a house. Of course that promoted responsibility, too. (keep your job; maintain your property)

    The market will take care of "affordability." Planners should take care of "liveability."

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    PS We as planners specify a MINIMUM lot size to assure LIVEABLITY.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck
    PS We as planners specify a MINIMUM lot size to assure LIVEABLITY.
    I was considering a maximum lot size in addition to our current minimum lot size standards.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

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