Federal Housing Bill Creates New Support and Incentives For Planning

Editor's Note: The Housing Supply and Affordability Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate on January 30. APA strongly supports this legislation, and held more than 90 meetings in 2023 with members of Congress to build bipartisan support for this critical planning assistance program.

A bipartisan bill that would empower planners to reform zoning and development codes, create housing action plans, and modernize regulatory structures has been introduced in Congress.

Zoning Reform Bill Seeks Solutions

The Housing Supply and Affordability Act would create a powerful new grant program inside the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that gives planners and cities, counties, and regional coalitions access to $1.5 billion in new funding and technical assistance to overhaul local rules that continue to stymie housing supply and availability and drive up housing costs.

"Planners agree that the time for zoning reform is now. The tools provided in the Housing Supply and Affordability Act would ensure that planners and the communities we support have the right mix of federal resources to create more housing in the right places and improve safety."
—Leo Asuncion, AICP, APA President

Importantly, the bill prioritizes planning-led solutions by providing both dedicated planning grants to help communities build out housing action plans and implementation grants to help them put plans into action. APA worked closely with Members of Congress from both parties to ensure that new funds for planning were included. Pushing for federal incentives and assistance for code and zoning reform is a top priority for APA in 2021.

Bipartisan Support for Housing Legislation

The legislation, which was introduced in both the House and the Senate, has support from Republicans and Democrats. In the Senate, the bill is backed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), while its House companion is supported by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), and Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH).

As one of the first federal programs to directly empower planners, this marks an opportunity for planners to demonstrate leadership in finding solutions that will:

  • Expand the Nation's Housing Supply
  • Address the Affordability Crisis
  • Tackle Social Equity Challenges

Building Support and Momentum for Action

Congress has an opportunity this month to advance this pair of bills. With presidential support and instructions to address barriers to housing supply as part of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, members of the House Financial Services and Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committees and their staff are working to determine how best to tackle zoning reform.

Planners can build support and momentum for action by encouraging their representatives and senators to support including the existing legislation in reconciliation. Emphasizing why the assistance and incentives in these bills will help planners and communities address the housing crisis will be important.

APA will continue to work behind the scenes to move this bill forward through targeted chapter and coalition outreach. But we can't do this alone. Your personal outreach at the right moments will build critical momentum and demonstrate that planners (and their constituents) are watching closely.

Together, we can deliver the federal support and resources that planners and communities need to lead the way on zoning reform.

Top image: Getty Images photo.

April 2, 2021

By Emily Pasi