Reshaping the City: Zoning for a More Equitable, Resilient and Sustainable Future

March 29, 2023

Urban Land Institute

Reshaping the City: Zoning for a More Equitable, Resilient, and Sustainable Future

A recent report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) details how updating zoning regulations can create more livable and equitable places by increasing housing attainability, reducing carbon emissions, promoting social equity and improving community health. When done right, these updates also hold potential to streamline the development process and expand opportunity for small-scale developers.

Reshaping the City: Zoning for a More Equitable, Resilient and Sustainable Future outlines how communities are updating zoning to address many of the issues and opportunities that American cities face today—including the need to increase the housing supply, incentivize low-carbon development, create more walkable places and prepare for the effects of climate change. The report features a section on form-based codes—land development regulations centered on physical form rather than separation of uses—drafted by Smart Growth America.

“Three-quarters of the land in major U.S. cities today is zoned exclusively for single-family homes,” said report author Matthew Norris, Senior Director with the ULI Building Healthy Places Initiative. “This contributes to community segregation, exacerbates the housing attainability crisis and deepens our dependency on cars—leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions. We hope to share valuable insights in this report that can help municipalities update their zoning to support equitable development objectives, encourage a variety of housing types and advance the types of walkable, mixed-use projects the market demands.”

Categorized into five distinct zoning approaches, the report offers case studies to highlight how cities and towns across the United States are using zoning tools already familiar to many cities to align policies around key livability and equity goals. Approaches discussed in the report rely on successful coordination among local government leaders, community members, real estate developers, and other stakeholders.

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