Wardman Park an example of Obama’s knock on zoning

This past Thursday, facing heated resistance from a group of locals who were backed by the local ANC3C, developer JBG walked away from an ambitious plan to transform Woodley Park from dense hotel-dominant neighborhood to one where dense residential housing would be built adjacent to the Metro.  Instead of facing the zoning headache, the developer is putting the parcel, including the Marriott hotel, up for sale.  On that very same day, the White House issued its Housing Development Toolkit.  The report set its sights on local barriers to expand housing supply, including restrictive zoning and off-street parking requirements, and the negative impacts these policies inflict on the economy.

Some in Ward 3 justify saying no to more residential density, saying they support inclusionary zoning – giving developers a density bonus if they include more below market rate units – especially if those projects are in other places like downtown.  Sure, subsidized housing is important, but its merely a band aid to the housing affordability crunch cities like DC and San Francisco are facing.  The solution to the housing shortage problem is creating more supply – at all income levels.  Pushing prospective buyers/renters way from Cleveland Park or Woodley Park is only exacerbating gentrification issues elsewhere in the city and increasing sprawl in the suburbs.

From the White House report:

Accumulated barriers to housing development can result in significant costs to households, local economies, and the environment.

  • Housing production has not been able to keep up with demand in many localities, impacting construction and other related jobs, limiting the requisite growth in population needed to sustain economic growth, and limiting potential tax revenue gains.
  • Barriers to housing development are exacerbating the housing affordability crisis, particularly in regions with high job growth and few rental vacancies.
  • Significant barriers to new housing development can cause working families to be pushed out of the job markets with the best opportunities for them, or prevent them from moving to regions with higher-paying jobs and stronger career tracks. Excessive barriers to housing development result in increasing drag on national economic growth and exacerbate income inequality.
  • When new housing development is limited region-wide, and particularly precluded in neighborhoods with political capital to implement even stricter local barriers, the new housing that does get built tends to be disproportionally concentrated in low-income communities of color, causing displacement and concerns of gentrification in those neighborhoods. Rising rents region-wide can exacerbate that displacement.
  • The long commutes that result from workers seeking out affordable housing far from job centers place a drain on their families, their physical and mental well-being, and negatively impact the environment through increased gas emissions.
  • When rental and production costs go up, the cost of each unit of housing with public assistance increases, putting a strain on already-insufficient public resources for affordable housing, and causing existing programs to serve fewer households.

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