Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Land of Single-Family Homes

Americans really like detached single-family homes. In European cities apartment living results in more densely populated urban centers than in most U.S. cities. In most U.S. cities land is often zoned to prevent the type of dense residential development that is common in many European cities.The result is that many cities in America are now witnessing an affordable housing crisis.

The New York Times has mapped out the areas of U.S. cities which are zoned for detached single-family housing and the amount of land zoned for other types of housing (for example apartment blocks). In Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot the NYT claims that many cities and states are now changing their planning regulations to promote the development of non single-family housing.

The multiple small maps in the NYT article use data from UrbanFootprint to show the areas in a number of different cities which are zoned for detached single-family homes. Later in the article the NYT shows these individual cities with larger maps. These larger maps include a percentage total of how much of the city is zoned for detached single-family housing. For example 70% of residential land in Minneapolis is zoned for detached single-family homes.

California is one state which is trying to encourage the development of other more densely packed types of housing. In an attempt to address California's housing supply crisis Senator Scott Wiener has introduced a bill which is designed to encourage the building of apartment buildings in areas with good transit, at the expense of single family homes. If passed the bill will prevent cities and towns from stopping the construction of apartment buildings in certain areas.

Of course not all single-family home owners are happy at the prospect of new tall apartment buildings being constructed in their neighborhoods. The creators of the Stop SB50 Wrecking Homes are definitely opposed to State Senator Scott Wiener's SB-50 bill. The site claims that "SB 50 is an unprecedented law that will destroy thousands of homes & apartments to build luxury housing up to 8 stories high".

This opposition to the bill shouldn't make much difference to their maps as long as they use accurate data. On the Stop SB50 Wrecking Family Homes interactive map three colors are used to show areas where 'Buildings up to 85' feet could be allowed, where 'Buildings up to 75' feet could be built and where 'Buildings up to 75 feet (in jobs rich/good school areas)' will be permitted.

In Peeling the SB 50 Onion UrbanFootprint has also mapped out how SB50 could impact areas in California's largest metropolitan areas. The UrbanFootprint map uses different colors to show zones which are near transit stops, in high quality transit corridors and which are seen as jobs-rich.

In the NYT article San Jose and Los Angeles in California have both been mapped to show how much of these cities' residential zones are currently zoned for detached single-family homes. In San Jose 94% of residential land is zoned for detached single-family homes. In Los Angeles 75% of residential land is zoned only for detached single-family homes. The result is that the West Coast has a huge affordable housing shortage.

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