In cities across the States, councils and legislatures seem ready for sweeping change – in this case, sweeping away the constraints of single-family zoning to force or incentivize cities to accommodate more density and, arguably, more affordable housing.  What seemed to begin in Minneapolis is now gaining momentum – and pushback.

There’s a report, column or opinion piece coming every week (thanks to Sightline for keeping track). Here’s a sampling.

In Washington:

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a wide-ranging set of housing reforms sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. The representative hopes the measures will address some of those key barriers to housing. The new laws will offer a financial carrot for cities to allow more density, loosen regulations to reduce the cost of constructing subsidized affordable housing, limit opportunities for legal challenges against new development, bar discriminatory bans on supportive housing for people exiting homelessness and more.

In Oregon:

A proposal in the Oregon Legislature could affect what the state’s neighborhoods look like for decades to come.

House Bill 2001 would increase density in single-family neighborhoods in the Portland metro area and every other city in the state with a population above 25,000. If passed, the bill would allow developers to build up to four units of attached housing, cottage clusters and townhouses in areas that are currently zoned exclusively for single-family homes.

The bill would also require smaller cities — with a population between 10,000 and 25,000 — to allow duplexes in single-family zones.

In Colorado:

Did Denver officials just lay the foundation to abolish single-family zoning throughout the city? It sure looks that way, and if so it’s a very big deal.

There’s also considerable coverage on California’s SB-50 state legislation, which would upzone vast swaths of the state, allowing multi-unit buildings into neighborhoods currently restricted to single-family housing – currently shelved in the state senate as of Thursday.

If you have the time and interest, here’s an excellent backgrounder from Curbed that explains all the factors involved in the housing crisis, albeit from an American perspective, that is in many ways applicable to us too.


  1. Do we now believe that we must look to the United States of America for planning direction in Canada?!!! “Sweeping away the constraint of single family zoning” – constraint meaning one surmises that it is not multi-family zoning! To advocate for the elimination of single family zoning means we will undoubtedly have unexpected and unforeseen consequences, perhaps for some an exodus beyond the boundaries of the city limits safe from the reach of the planning authority having jurisdiction and bringing with it yet more commuting issues. Single family living is an iconic social and cultural ideal that takes place in a house on a lot that is owned by the occupants.

  2. Sensible re-zoning from SF to MF in sub-sets is OK but whole neighborhood rezoning is can have negative consequences.

    One needs to be mindful of neighborhood character, traffic, and property value impact and a number of intended or often unintended consequences if one rezones too large an area.

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