The outsized influence that residents have to influence local government policy over zoning and land-use regulations has given NIMBYs the upper hand, leading to the housing affordability crisis we see today.
Writing for Pew, Teresa Wiltz documents how state governments are looking to change the venue on these regulations from cities to the statehouse to address the crisis:
Although local zoning rules typically play out in city council and suburban board meetings, states from South Carolina to Hawaii are getting involved. Sometimes this means removing zoning barriers to building affordable housing. And sometimes state lawmakers take the opposite approach, seeking to prevent cities from requiring that builders include affordable housing units in their developments.
The most notable instance of states taking greater action to address housing affordability caused by the slog that is zoning reform at the local level can be found in California Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 828 (and SB 827, which unfortunately died in committee this spring.)
Politically speaking, shifting the venue from the local to state level, especially when it comes to placing restrictions on the rules local governments can impose, is a good idea. It’s easy for the neighborhood NIMBYs to use their outsized voices at a town council or zoning board meeting to stop a small development, but another question entirely if they need to rally at the state house.
What’s interesting is the character the state intervention takes. It may be undesirable or impractical for all of the minutiae of land-use and zoning regulations to be done at the state level, but instead states are intervening to circumscribe what regulations localities can (or more frequently, can’t) implement. In addition to SB 827:
[T]he Connecticut House passed an affordable housing bill [that if signed into law would] require cities to end bans on multi-family housing units…
In Louisiana, after New Orleans officials suggested requiring affordable housing units in some new developments, the state legislature this spring tried to repeal the state provision that allows such inclusionary zoning. The bill, which would have instead added incentives to developers, was backed by the Louisiana Home Builders Association, according to news reports. But Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed it.
Lawmakers in Hawaii and Tennessee also introduced legislation this year that would ban locales from adopting inclusionary zoning. The Hawaii bill is still in committee, but the Tennessee law.