In recent weeks, the Olympia Planning Commission has been discussing zoning changes, in this case named the Missing Middle. While I don’t find the proposals to be the perfect solution, the Planning Commission should be congratulated for looking into fixing the current stranglehold that Olympia is putting on increased housing supply with their zoning regulations.
Zoning has long been used as a tool to segregate both class and race, and the results of these regulations can be felt nationwide in the education gap and overall earning power of Americans. While the stated goal of zoning never mentions this, there is no denying the result. Zoning laws hurt the people in the community they are supposedly protecting.
“Arguably, land use controls have a more widespread impact on the lives of ordinary Americans than any other regulation. These controls, typically imposed by localities, make housing more expensive and restrict the growth of America’s most successful metropolitan areas,” according to the Brookings Institute. (brookings.edu/research/reforming-land-use-regulations)
Allowing an increased diversity of housing types, and including more options for multifamily housing, will allow builders to address the demand, and build more supply to meet it. This will, in turn, begin to counteract some of the increases we have seen to housing costs and further diversify our communities.
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The best part is that it costs the taxpayer nothing. It is a simple change, and the market can begin to fill the community’s needs with no more government involvement or spending.