New guide offers communities a path to zoning reform
The Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU) worked with the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to complete Enabling Better Places: A Zoning Guide for Vermont Neighborhoods. This how-to manual, part of CNU’s Project for Code Reform, promotes practical, small steps for Vermont’s cities, towns, and villages to address regulatory barriers that limit the choice of homes at prices people can afford.
In most communities, obsolete land use regulations impede the development of vibrant, walkable neighborhoods that combine housing and compatible commercial uses in neighborhoods that offer a variety of homes for every stage of life. Unfortunately, the difficult and costly process of updating municipal regulations is too often out of reach for many communities. The result is zoning that perpetuates the status quo and limits housing access, convenience, and affordability.
Enabling Better Places: A Zoning Guide for Vermont Neighborhoods offers guidance and model regulations that support an incremental process for addressing the specific zoning reforms that municipalities need to provide housing choices for more Vermonters and increase vibrancy, inclusion, equity, and affordability.
“Taking this incremental approach to bylaw reform is an efficient way to add value to communities across Vermont while enabling more diverse and affordable housing choices,” said Mallory Baches, Director of Strategic Development at CNU. “Communities don’t need to wait until they are ready to completely overhaul their regulations; instead, this guide describes the small, tactical steps that can be taken immediately.”
The guide culminates a year of work with six Vermont communities through the Project for Code Reform, CNU’s strategic initiative to support cities and towns as they reform outdated zoning codes in favor of more walkable urbanism. With financial support from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, AARP-Vermont, and the Vermont Association of Realtors, CNU worked with DHCD and Vermont’s Regional Planning Commissions to create the new guide, focusing on increasing housing access and affordability in walkable centers.
“Vermont’s demographics and housing needs are quickly changing, with striking implications for our economy,” said DHCD Commissioner, Josh Hanford. “This new tool helps communities enable the walkable, residential development needed today to support a diverse workforce.”
The guide emphasizes small changes that can have a big impact in a single neighborhood or area of town, making it easy for communities to create solutions right for their needs and circumstances. This focus helps local leaders test approaches, build political will, and gain community support as they go, before moving on to other reforms.
During a time of overlapping health, economic, and social crises, the guide offers perspective on how municipalities can acknowledge their own capacity and readiness for change by exploring the practical and political dimensions of bylaw reform. Working to make review processes smoother and adapt to evolving housing needs while addressing related land use issues such as wastewater and stormwater service is complex work, but any community, no matter where they are in addressing their housing supply, can take a step. With this guide, municipalities do not have to delay small changes that can make a big difference for friends, neighbors, and their community. They can act now.
Enabling Better Places: A Zoning Guide for Vermont Neighborhoods may be downloaded free of charge by clicking here.