Ben Carson, the Republican Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development wants to make housing affordable and he has a simple plan: cut unnecessary government regulation. In an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Carson said: â€œI want to encourage the development of mixed-income multifamily dwellings all over the place.â€
At a gathering of public housing authority directors in Washington, D.C, Carson shared his diagnosis of the problem: â€œI want to take a closer look at the archaic local and state regulatory barriersâ€”such as zoning and land use restrictionsâ€”that are preventing the construction of new mixed-income multifamily developments, whether in poor or wealthier neighborhoods.â€ The Wall Street Journal explains that Carsonâ€™s plan is â€œto tie HUD grants, which many communities use to build roads, sewers, bridges and other infrastructure projects, to less restrictive zoning.â€ In Carsonâ€™s words, he would â€œincentivize people who really would like to get a nice juicy government grantâ€ to make their zoning less regulated, allowing for more development.
For Ben Carson, the increasingly bipartisan effort to deregulate development is about rejecting ideology and operating with common sense. In the WSJ interview, he explains: â€œThe last administration, when they put this together they really went down an ideological pathway. We are going to look at the people who are actually affected, what are they saying, what will be helpful to them.â€
Ben Carsonâ€™s proposal is similar to that of senators across the aisle, including Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. Like Carson, Booker believes that â€œexclusionary zoning feeds the affordable housing crisisâ€ because â€œrestrictive zoning laws drive up prices by artificially restricting the supply of housing.â€ And also just like Carsonâ€™s proposed remedy which relies on better incentives, Bookerâ€™s solution is that â€œstates, cities and counties receiving funding under the $3.3 billion federal Community Development Block Grant program for public infrastructure and housing would be required to develop strategies to reduce barriers to housing development and increase the supply of housingâ€ which could include plans to authorize â€œhigh density and multifamily zoning and relaxing lot size restrictions.â€ Bookerâ€™s proposal would also encourage governments to â€œreduce restrictions on lot sizes and allow the construction of multifamily unitsâ€ and â€œreduce parking requirements and restrictions on accessory dwelling units,â€ allowing by-right development for projects meeting local zoning requirements. Similarly, The Atlantic reports that Elizabeth Warrenâ€™s proposed bill â€œcreates a competitive block grant programâ€ to encourage deregulation. Under this plan, â€œthe grant money could be spent flexiblyâ€”on schools or parks, for exampleâ€”and is intended to appeal to suburban communities with stricter zoning laws. Those communities can only access grants if they reexamine and redress their land restrictions.â€
Iâ€™ve written about the need for deregulation and zoning reform. In an interview with my local paper, I observed that â€œthe market tells us that people want more optionsâ€ and argued that we should â€œremove some of the government regulations and let people choose what they do with their own properties.â€ I recently wrote an in-depth post on how Accessory Dwelling Units are a great way to provide affordable housing.