Lawmakers are banning single-family zoning. But are apartment buildings the ‘silver bullet’ for America’s housing shortage?

Over the last five years, a number of cities and states in the U.S. — from Minneapolis to Maine, Oregon and California — have overturned rules that previously only allowed developers to build single-family homes in certain neighborhoods.  The push to eliminate single-family housing is premised on the desire to to create more housing units, while also making them more affordable and easing the cost of living. 

The U.S. suffers from a national housing shortage — “the product of local restrictive zoning policies and other regulatory barriers that make it difficult to build a range of housing types at different price points,” according to a 2023 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. The group estimated that 75% of land in many cities is zoned only for single-family homes.

“Ending single-family zoning would, in theory at least, give way to builders constructing, and put more people in more homes on the same plot of land previously zoned to fit a single-family home. ”

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