Less Stringent Zoning Regulation is Key To Advancing Affordable Home Ownership

Philip Weiden | May 2015

A lot has been said about keeping specific policies in place at the federal and state level to support home ownership. These policies include the soundness of the FHA, stopping a 20 % mandatory down payment requirement for first time home buyers and preserving the mortgage interest deduction There are many other policies that I will write about in the future that affect home ownership.

What I want to talk about today is higher density zoning and also making more land available for more single-family housing. Our biggest problem on a local level in the suburbs has been to preserve too much land for open space. Preserving too much land drives up the price of housing because it limits the housing stock that could be made available—that stock is strictly limited thus increasing the price of the existing supply.

One of the biggest reasons why zoning regulations should be eased is that it would keep property taxes in check and would allow the burden of property taxes to be spread out over a bigger population. This coupled with the property tax cap would help stabilize the growth of property taxes for existing homeowners.

Local governments are right when they say they don’t have control over the mandates that Albany forces on them. However, they do have control over whether to allow their tax base to expand or shrink. Patchogue, Long Island saw its population increase and built the housing necessary to accompany this with higher density zoning and more restaurants and bars coming to the area. A decade ago Patchogue was looked at as a suburban failure and now it is viewed at nationally as a great success because it allowed higher density building in both the residential and commercial marketplace.

The key is also to cater to millennials and find out what they would like since they are the first time home buyers that will decide the future of what the housing market will look like. Young people have been flocking to multi-family housing developments because they like both the walkability and the convenience to not have to use a car to commute to work thus saving them a lot of money and time on commuting.

One industry that really does not have to worry about high taxes is the high tech industry. The high tech industry usually goes where there is a diverse community and an educated workforce. However, they do benefit from looser land use regulations because it can allow them to build the office space they need in order to thrive. Finally Westchester County, especially White Plains and the county in general, is known to be more open and willing to build apartments than Long Island would be. Increasing both the supply of rentals and single-family homes will help New York retain the young workforce that it needs to remain an economic giant.

Legislative Corner columnist Philip Weiden is the Government Affairs Director for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

Philip Weiden
Legislative Affairs columnist Philip Weiden is the Government Affairs Director for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.