Multiple states are proposing ways to circumvent local control regarding land, zoning, and housing:
In New York, the governor wants the state to mandate housing production from local governments and to take over control of their land use if they fail to meet the targets. In California, a bill introduced to the state Assembly on Thursday would require approval of multifamily housing developments in walkable, transit-accessible and centrally located areas.
On Wednesday, the Oregon Legislature passed a package of bills that would require cities to set housing development goals and appropriate $200 million for affordable housing development. Earlier this month, the Washington state Legislature approved a bill legalizing accessory dwelling units, also known as “granny flats,” like an apartment made from a garage or basement. And the Washington state House of Representatives passed a bill last Tuesday that would allow multifamily housing units to be built anywhere in larger cities and near bus stops in smaller towns.
The trend is not just happening in blue states. Montana’s Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has proposed legalizing duplexes and triplexes all across the state and legalizing apartment buildings in all commercial areas. And the Oregon and Washington measures have drawn broad bipartisan support.
What does this add up to?
“We’re basically declaring a holy war on sprawl,” Matthew Lewis, communications director of California YIMBY, a pro-housing advocacy group that is backing the bill, told Yahoo News.
Such a declaration is unlikely to ease the minds of conservatives who fear efforts to limit local and individual control or increase density.
Is it possible to discuss sprawl and its effects in a civil manner? I suspect this is hard to do. It invokes passion on multiple sides. Is sprawl about having a piece of private land and achieving the American Dream? Is it a waste of resources and destroyer of natural ecosystems? Is it a unique feature of American life to accommodate single-family homes and cars?
As the article hints, there are likely long fights over such efforts. Where exactly is the line between local control and the broader interest of the public? Particularly in communities with money and political voice, the fight may drag on.