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Rethink Housing: Navigating State Laws and Innovative Approaches

The second iteration of the FutureIsNow speaker series prompts questions regarding housing, effects of zoning, and land use policies in NWA and seeks educated answers from Emily Hamilton and Matthew Petty, who share best practices within their fields.

Zoning shapes the way cities are built, and often times, dictates what and how much housing can be built. What are the potential impacts of new state-level regulations on local housing?

In the second event of the FutureIsNow speaker series hosted, Emily Hamilton, senior researcher and director of the urbanity project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, shared efforts by several states to amend legislation, enabling the construction of multi-family housing in commercial zones and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), directly impacting the amount of supply on the market.

Hamilton introduces five categories she suggests lawmakers consider during legislative sessions, including limitations on local regulations, streamlining procedures, fiscal innovation, narrowing zoning authority, and updating construction standards.

Hamilton was joined on stage by Matthew Petty, CEO of the company Patterned Zones. Petty emphasizes that to properly handle issues concerning housing affordability and obtainability, community leaders must devote all of their efforts to supporting the cities and towns that need the help of their state.

These categories prompt discussions of adopting novel strategies for approval procedures. As opposed to project-by-project, Hamilton highlighted the importance of hearing input from the community and take their opinions into account throughout the comprehensive plan phase. Hamilton also expanded on repurposing nonprofitable commercial land, and the construction of ADUs by homeowners.

Hamilton advocates for specific limitations on local regulations, such as allowing the construction of two to four units in place of strictly single-family developments. Petty also supports multi-family housing to expand definitions of duplexes.

Petty shares Pattern Zones' contribution to pre-approved construction projects, significantly reducing obstacles to acceptable infill. He notes the increasing importance of addressing housing challenges with innovative technology like Pattern Zones, allowing towns to pre-approve building plans.

Despite the time required for implementation, Hamilton sees positive indications that these measures can create affordable housing and produce lasting results.

Host Randy Wilburn closed out the panel by emphasizing the need for NWA citizens to look at the bigger picture of what they want the region to look like in the decades to come. Addressing the many issues of housing will bring challenges, but there is an opportunity to build a better NWA that can be maintained and enjoyed for generations.

Written by: Ava Gatewood