In areas that are predominantly zoned for single-family housing, it can be difficult for low- and moderate-income working families and individuals to find housing that adequately meets their needs at a price they can afford. This can lead to the exclusion of lower-income households from areas with good schools and other amenities, and exacerbate a spatial mismatch between jobs and workers.

Commercial corridors and other areas with good job access and quality transit infrastructure present valuable opportunities for accommodating apartments, townhomes and condominiums. Areas with high-quality transit accessibility are ideal settings for compact development because the clustering of households supports transit operations, and the proximity of transit allows residents to own fewer cars. Compact development is facilitated by zoning districts and zoning overlays that allow for greater intensity of development, taller heights, reduced property line setbacks and lower parking requirements than typically found in single-family residential zones.

In regions where households highly value transit accessibility, new multi-family housing may be expensive in spite of being less costly than single-family homes. For this reason, “upzoning” (i.e., increasing development scale and potential) in areas of high accessibility is increasingly paired with policies to incentivize the production and preservation of deed-restricted affordable housing for lower-income households.

Case Studies

TOD Corridors (Arlington County, Va.)

Arlington County, located just outside of Washington, D.C., has been served by two regionally connected Metrorail lines since the late 1970s: the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and the Jefferson Davis Corridor. Over the last four decades, planners in Arlington County have aggressively targeted these corridors for compact development, promoting multi-family and mixed-use development in areas close to Metro stations. The county has used strategies such as mixed-use land use designations, targeted infrastructure improvements, incentive zoning, density bonuses and by-right zoning overlays to promote denser development and increase the amount of housing built in these corridors.

A robust planning and outreach process, as well as regular updates and changes to the zoning code, have allowed for the introduction of a considerable number of new apartments and condominiums along these corridors over the past 30 years.

To address increasing housing costs in the area, Arlington County created “Special Affordable Housing Protection Districts” surrounding the transit stations. Within the protection districts, higher densities are permitted under the requirement that affordable housing is either preserved or replaced. Similar efforts to promote affordable housing development in highly accessible areas can be found in the Inclusionary Housing section of the toolkit.

For More Info:

Robert Brosnan, Assistant County Manager, Arlington County
Email: [email protected]