Zoning Reform Toolkit: 15 Tools to Expand Housing Choice and Supply

Nearly a century ago, local zoning was introduced to improve living conditions for the working poor and keep away the noxious effects of industry. Today's codes frequently place less "desirable" housing types, such as apartment buildings, next to major thoroughfares or heavy commercial uses. The working poor have been relegated to the places that zoning was supposed to protect them from. Cover of Zoning Reform Toolkit

If the purpose of zoning is truly to protect the public's health, safety, and general welfare then fair zoning regulations are needed to serve everyone in Michigan's communities. How can our villages, cities, townships, and counties evolve in a rapidly changing world if zoning only maintains the status quo? New paradigms are needed and past practices modified to address the growing need to expand housing choice and supply.

This Toolkit is designed to help municipal leaders implement zoning reform to do just that and, in the process, combat the affordability crisis. As a community manager, elected or appointed official, zoning administrator, planner, or other person involved in guiding community change, we hope this Toolkit will be useful to you as you have important (and likely difficult) conversations with your colleagues and constituents on this complex issue.

The Toolkit begins by laying out the elements of the housing crisis and creating a case for zoning reform as a necessary intervention. We focus on the context of the crisis from an economic and historical perspective and detail the changing policy and demographic contexts that inform the issue. We then move to communications strategies for discussing the housing shortage and the necessity of zoning reform to combat it. Next we detail the fifteen zoning tools to address housing supply, choice, and affordability. In the last chapter, we look toward the future, sharing tips on how to get started with zoning reform in your community and the next steps for addressing the housing shortage in Michigan at a statewide level.

In 2022, the Zoning Reform Toolkit for Housing Supply and Choice received the American Planning Association's 2022 Karen B. Smith Chapter Award for Outstanding Achievement.  Each year, the APA Chapter President’s Council recognizes individual APA chapters that have demonstrated outstanding performance in public outreach, service to members, professional development, and overall chapter achievement.  

The MAP award is in the Outstanding Service to Members category, which recognizes innovations, programs, or new or improved services that benefit the members of a particular chapter.  We are being recognized for our vision in identifying an important issue facing Michigan communities, securing funding, and developing a product that will help municipal planners identify and implement zoning reforms to increase housing supply.  Here you can find the winning proposal.

Many, many resources from a wide variety of perspectives and approaches informed the development of this Toolkit. The current housing shortage is critical news at the national, state, and local level across America. The following collection of links aims to provide context, comparisons, research, spatial analysis, and data to support your community's exploration of the unique ways in which you are experiencing, and addressing, this urgent issue. You can filter the results by clicking on the columns and selecting criteria, then "apply" - if you can't see the results, try scrolling upward. Available information about the format, year, and author can be accessed by scrolling to the right. If you prefer a roomier view or if the embedded sheet does not display, you can view and download the spreadsheet in a new window. Please report broken links or suggest new resources by emailing [email protected].