A recent report from Zillow shows that support for common elements of zoning reform, the policy changes that enable modest densification, is growing in 29 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.
As housing affordability issues remain largely unaddressed, it should be no surprise that those living in large metro areas are increasingly supporting pillars of modest densification.
When Zillow conducted this survey in 2022, 73% of homeowners and 83% of renters supported at least one modest densification approach. Today, these numbers stand at 78% and 89%, respectively.
Notably, support for zoning reform is rising with baby boomers and the Silent Generation, whose support for zoning reform is the lowest among those surveyed. In 2022, only 55% were supportive of at least one modest densification approach. Today, that number stands at 69%, increasing 14 points in one year.
Modest Densification Support: Local Market Highlights
Of course, housing is very much a regional and state issue. Diving deeper into the results, support for zoning modernization is increasing, even in areas where zoning reform legislation was not successful in 2023.
Opposition from mountain resort towns and the Colorado Municipal League halted Colorado’s attempts to modernize. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis made zoning reform central to his legislative agenda in 2023.
- Support for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in the Denver area increased 10 points year-over-year to 83%.
- Support for up to three units per structure in the Denver area increased five points year-over-year to 75%.
- Support for any one missing middle housing strategy polling increased one point to 79%.
Zoning reform has been a part of the Minnesota legislative conversation since 2019. After clearing the state Senate in various forms over the past few years, the “Legalize Affordable Housing Act” cleared its first House committee in 2023, but it died on the legislative calendar. According to Zillow, support for modest densification increased over the past year:
- Support for ADUs in the Twin Cities increased 21 points year-over-year to 86%.
- Support for up to three units per structure in the Twin Cities increased 19 points year-over-year to 75%.
- Support for any one missing middle housing strategy polling increased nine points to 84%.
Arizona sought to join the growing number of western states that have acted on zoning, but lawmakers were not able to overcome opposition from the executive branch and local government.
- Support for ADUs in the Phoenix area increased 10 points year-over-year to 85%.
- Support for up to three units per structure in the Phoenix area increased 18 points year-over-year to 75%.
- Support for any one missing middle housing strategy polling held steady at 81%.
Policymakers Take Note
Housing is at the center of everything. Where we live drives educational and health outcomes. As the American household’s largest expense, the cost of housing is very much a kitchen table economics issue for households across the country.
Unlike other divisive issues over the years, public support of zoning modernization crosses the political spectrum. As our housing affordability challenges grow, policymakers who buy into the belief that local control, even when the outcomes are harmful, is a good thing, should take note.
The states that have modernized their land use laws have shown that zoning reform is a bipartisan ideal, one that clears the legislature by wide, veto-proof margins.
Support for zoning modernization is increasing, pushing 80% this year in metropolitan areas. Local officials and legislators who oppose zoning reform are not just finding themselves out of alignment with their voters, they are also likely to find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Related Content: State Legislatures and Housing Reform