A look at the White House’s Housing Development Toolkit

A look at the White House’s Housing Development Toolkit

When the White House publishes a white paper, it warrants some attention. Published online this Monday, September 26th 2016, the Housing Development Toolkit takes a close and critical look at some of America’s more prominent issues. Income and economic issues, homelessness levels, and segregation all ultimately come back to the land-use policies of America’s large cities and suburbs, according to the Obama administration. 

Tracking the issue back along its major milestones brings researches and readers alike whizzing past some familiar stops: economic inequality and segregation, growth opposition initiatives, and finally, the territorial residents who fuel and disguise those initiatives. To look at the issue from it’s centre outwards, the first chapter of the conversation really ought to be NIMBYs - ‘Not in My Back Yard’ residents in opposition of new developments within their proximity.



Familiarity with the acronym is a good place to start as it has been used, and is being used a great deal in the conversations that have ensued since Monday’s publication of the Housing Development Toolkit. In short, NIMBYs operate with a recognition of the value proposition inherent in new developments, but hold that these benefits (or requirements) are meaningless if comfort is at stake. 

Homeless shelters, military bases, renewable energy sites, businesses, nursing homes and more represent just a handful of the beneficial developments that are relentlessly combatted by residents who are unhappy with the idea that these additions might change their neighbourhood ecosystem. As a result, infrastructure expansion and renewable energy initiatives have in many cases been shut down by inherently well funded NIMBY crusades.


High buildings, high salaries, high costs

The visible results of these limitations are most apparent in bustling cities like New York and San Francisco, where immobile markets have skyrocketed the cost of housing and rent. Obviously this puts affordable living at stake for working families, but there’s more going on here than that. The environment and the economy are both weakened by this model - issues at the forefront of just about everyone’s mind.

Access to these city centres has become all but closed from a housing perspective, naturally strengthening geographical disparity and forcing labour away from America’s hubs. How is all of this possible? Laws, constructed with a very clear anti-development label, killing these practical projects before they ever begin. As a result, employees of every type are forced to either commute ridiculous distances or move to cities they can afford to live in. The former is a loss for public transportation and the environment, the latter, for economic health.

That’s where the Housing Development Toolkit’s recommendations come into play, as it boldly highlights the issue in such a way that it can’t be ignored, and goes a step further in proposing solutions.


The Housing Development Toolkit

Identifying an issue is one thing, but supplying solutions is often a great deal harder. Here are some of the recommendations The Housing Development Toolkit was home to:


  • The taxation of vacant land or, more interestingly, the donation of vacant land to not-for-profit developers.
  • The installation of an as-of-right development permission that bypasses lengthy legislative reviews and affords developments an expedited approval process once zoning requirements are met. In short, these developments are approved by an administration and do not require public hearings.
  • The streamlining of permitting timelines, which could be shorted to five days.
  • Eliminate the off-street parking requirements that force new developments to include parking solutions that are often astronomically expensive. 
  • Enacting inclusionary zoning, which requires that new developments be affordable for people with low to moderate incomes.
  • Enacting zoning that accommodates high-density and multifamily housing and including density bonuses, which allow for developers to build more housing or taller buildings when including affordable units in the project.
  • Generate tax incentives for developments that are focused on affordable housing solutions and are designed to support and encourage public transit.


At the end of the day recommendations don’t directly affect change. It falls to Americans to decide how to proceed from here! The full Housing Development Toolkit is worth a read, so if you haven’t already, follow the link to the white paper and then leave your thoughts with us on social media.

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