Upzoning for Affordable Housing: Does It Work?

A planning movement to eliminate single-family zoning or upzone residential neighborhoods is under way. However, few rigorous studies have determined whether market actors respond to those changes in the ways that policy makers intended. Market actors are driven to maximize profits while policy makers want more affordable housing to diversify the housing stock and discourage gentrification in vulnerable neighborhoods. Learn how Durham, North Carolina, relaxed zoning ordinances by allowing duplexes, small lot development, and higher-density development in formerly single-family residential zones. Presenters describe post-zoning changes to housing and affordability and neighborhood character. They offer Durham as a case study that illustrates the short-term consequences of upzoning — both intended and unintended. Presenters discuss motives and goals that drove Durham’s zoning changes in 2019 and describe the study design, analysis, and results. Find out whether upzoning has achieved Durham’s goals to alleviate gentrification pressures in low-income, predominantly minority, renter neighborhoods and reduce families’ displacement to lower-quality neighborhoods in worse locations.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn about the public engagement process required to upzone large urban areas.
  • Understand the intended and unintended consequences of large-scale upzoning and developers' subsequent responses and actions.
  • Consider if upzoning strategies resulted in needed changes.

The NPC Peer Reviewers assigned this presentation a learning level of Advanced. For more on learning level descriptions visit our General Information Page.