Because zoning has proved to be the best system yet for managing the conflicting needs of urban development, and affordable housing requires an exception to present zoning restrictions, policymakers should consider an expansion of the variance system. In particular, policymakers should adopt a new version of the variance—in essence, a “public interest variance”— through which municipalities could permit development outside the scope of the zoning rules for a particular property when it would serve an enumerated public interest. This would directly increase housing affordability and indirectly support antipoverty efforts that have been long resistant to government intervention intended to increase the supply of housing and decrease its cost relative to incomes. Ultimately, this note acknowledges the value of highly regulated, modern land use rules but seeks a solution that promotes property rights and the implementation of public objectives (i.e., housing affordability) through an expanded variance system.
Brooklyn Law Review