Atlanta, GA

Cumbersome state zoning legislation would stymie affordable housing creation, opponents say

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A bill cruising through the Georgia legislature that would add more obstacles to local rezoning initiatives could stunt efforts to ameliorate the housing crisis that has spread statewide, opponents told Atlanta Civic Circle this week. 

One way to create more affordable housing is to allow greater density in residential areas, but rezoning proposals generally face stiff opposition from residents who want to protect their suburban way of life.

The Republican-sponsored House Bill 1406, which cleared a House vote on March 9 and is now working its way through the Senate, would create more obstacles by mandating additional hearings and public input opportunities before municipalities can rezone single-family properties. 

If passed, HB 1406 would complicate the already arduous process of upzoning — making land available for taller or denser development, such as apartment complexes or tiny homes — according to advocacy group Neighbors for More Neighbors Metro Atlanta (N4MN), a chapter of the San Francisco-based YIMBY Action group that’s lobbying against the proposal

“Georgia is in an insane housing crisis,” said N4MN member Eric Kronberg, principal at Kronberg Urbanists + Architects. “We’re not building nearly the housing we need in any way, shape, or form … and to make it even harder for cities to meet this need is kind of mind-boggling.” 

Housing and urban planning experts have told Atlanta Civic Circle that increasing residential density is crucial to promoting housing affordability, because it’s an effective way to increase the housing stock as supply continues to lag far behind demand

But the legislation’s authors, including state House Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, say HB 1406 merely strives for more transparency in the rezoning process.

“Simply put, individuals own the property; government does not,” Martin told Atlanta Civic Circle in an email. “And when government seeks to make a wholesale change to a zoning category, then property owners should be noticed, and their input should be taken into consideration.”

“If folks, including ‘urbanist organizations’ choose to describe providing notice, posting the property, and requiring public hearings as ‘belaboring’ the process, they may do so,” he added. 

But Kronberg said the statewide zoning bill is superfluous, because safeguards — including robust community input opportunities — already exist to prevent governments from rezoning willy-nilly. 

As an example, he mentioned Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi’s proposal last year to boost intown density near MARTA stations. 

Atlanta Civic Circle.

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