Practice Gentle Density

Zoning Practice — February 2023

By Jacqueline Berg, AICP, John Houseal, FAICP


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Cities, towns, and counties across the country are facing a housing availability and affordability crisis. To address the issue, many are developing plans and policies that promote housing stock diversification in both new and infill development scenarios. However, when such development proposals are presented for review and approval, neighbors often fiercely oppose them, citing concern over a perceived change in the character of their neighborhoods and loss in property value and quality of life.

Bulk and dimensional standards can play a significant role in blending missing-middle housing types into new and existing neighborhoods. Both new and existing neighborhoods can benefit from use-specific standards for higher-density missing-middle housing types. Objective design standards can help to provide fair certainty as to the appearance and function of new and infill development for both current residents and developers. And standards addressing the transition between lower-density and higher-density housing merit special consideration.

This issue of Zoning Practice explores zoning strategies that balance the concerns of residents and the demands of the housing market by accommodating gentle density increases in a context-sensitive manner. From historic downtown neighborhoods to modern residential subdivisions, the tools presented can be used by planners throughout the country to implement housing policy through regulation.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2023
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Jacqueline Berg, AICP
Jackie is a Practice Lead at Houseal Lavigne, a professional consulting firm specializing in all aspects of community planning, zoning, and geospatial solutions. She is focused on working with municipalities to develop actionable plans that reflect the vision and goals of the community and to update their zoning, sign, and subdivision ordinances to ensure they are useful tools in plan implementation. Her experience with both planning and zoning grounds all her work in the realities of the market and effectively balances community aspirations with what it takes to get good development done.

John Houseal, FAICP