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Regulatory tools

Click on a tool in the list below to jump to the full description. 

Regulatory tools
Reducing minimum lot size requirements  Cluster developments 
Reducing minimum unit size requirements  Abide by "as of right" development 
Separating density from unit size Expedited permitting and review
Separating density from unit type Reducing permitting costs
Promoting the development of accessory dwelling units Reducing impact fees
Density bonuses Reducing infrastructure costs
Inclusionary zoning Increasing residential parking flexibility
Require long-term affordability Housing replacement/retention requirements 
Transit-oriented development Housing trusts
Overlay districts Rental housing codes
Planned unit development (PUD) ordinances "On the record" review
Tax vacant land Land banks


Regulatory tool How does it work?

Examples of where the tool has been used:

Vermont                                                       Beyond

Additional resources  
Reducing minimum lot size  requirements   Zoning bylaws that require large (≥2 acres per dwelling unit) minimum lot sizes for the developable land in the municipality can discourage the development of affordable housing. Large minimum lot sizes require developers to acquire more land, inflating the costs of development, which are passed on to residents.  Burlington, Colchester, Enosburg, Enosburg Falls, Essex, Essex Junction, Franklin, Grand Isle, Highgate, Hinesburg, Montgomery, Richford, Richmond, South Burlington, South Hero, St. Albans City, St. Albans Town, Swanton, Winooski Los Angeles, California Erie County Department of Environment and Planning; Connecticut Fair Housing Center
Reducing minimum unit size requirements Zoning bylaws that set unnecessarily large minimum unit sizes can prohibit developers from building smaller, lower-cost housing units that can be more affordable. Municipalities may chose to expand zoning requirements to allow for micro-units or compact units in some instances, such as senior housing that offers additional shared community spaces.  Burlington, Colchester, Enosburg, Enosburg Falls, Essex, Essex Junction, Franklin, Grand Isle, Highgate, Hinesburg, Montgomery, Richford, Richmond, South Burlington, South Hero, St. Albans City, St. Albans Town, Swanton, Winooski   Erie County Department of Environment and PlanningConnecticut Fair Housing Center; NYU Furman Center
Separating density from unit size A zoning bylaw that considers dwelling units of different sizes differently in terms of density. Instead of treating all dwelling units the same when determining maximum density of units, greater numbers of smaller units could be permitted. This is often seen in low-income senior housing, which can allow smaller unit sizes in exchange for shared community spaces within a development.  Check out Vermont's Gentle Infill guidelnes Los Angeles, California; New York City; Portland, Oregon  NYU Furman Center
Separating density from unit type A zoning bylaw that disconnects automatically allowing large multi-family buildings in higher-density districts, instead allowing high density but only as single or two-family homes. This practice may overlap with cluster or cottage development practices.   Lehigh Valley Region, Pennsylvania; Kirkland, Washington; Seattle, Washington  Municipal Research and Services Center; The Housing Partnership
Promoting the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs)

Additional living quarters on single-family lots that are independent of the primary dwelling unit. ADUs can offer more options for affordable housing, as they can be inexpensively constructed and do not require additional land for development. According to Vermont law (24 VSA §4412), municipalities must allow accessory dwelling units. However, municipalities may choose to adjust local bylaws to actively encourage the construction of ADUs.

Vermont ADU checklist

Richmond, Shelburne, Colchester, Charlotte, Brattleboro, Burlington, Montpelier, Westford

State of California; State of Oregon; Portland, Oregon; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Los Angeles Backdoor Revolution (Kol Peterson)The White HouseNYU Furman Center; American Planning AssociationVermont Natural Resources Council; HomeShare Vermont
Density bonuses Municipal planning ordinances that allow developers to increase the maximum allowable development on a property in exchange for making a certain percentage of the housing affordable. May be incorporated into inclusionary zoning requirements Bakersfield, Berkshire, Bolton, Burlington, Charlotte, Colchester, Enosburg, Enosburg Falls, Essex, Essex Junction, Fairfax, Fairfield, Fletcher, Franklin, Georgia, Grand Isle, Hinesburg, Huntington, Jericho, Milton, Montgomery, North Hero, Richford, Shelburne, South Burlington, St. Albans City, St. George, Swanton, Underhill, Winooski, Williston, Westford State of California; Lehigh Valley Region, Pennsylvania; Montgomery County, MarylandNew York City; Madison, Wisconsin; Austin, Texas The White House; Smart Growth America; University of Wisconsin Center for Land Use Education
Inclusionary zoning Municipal planning ordinances that require or incentivize developers to set aside a certain percentage of affordable housing units for low and moderate-income residents Burlington, Fairfield, Hinesburg, South Burlington (City Center), Williston New York City; Chicago, Illinois; Washington DC; San Francisco, California; Cambridge, Massachusetts U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; The Urban Land Institute; PolicyLink; Vermont Natural Resources Council; CityLab
Require long-term affordability Tools such as inclusionary zoning require developers to create housing that meets definitions of “affordable” by its rent or purchase price. Some municipalities additionally require long-term or perpetual affordability of the unit. Municipalities can ensure that the units remain accessible to future residents through stewardship by a housing trust and/or by setting rent or resale price restrictions.

Burlington, South Burlington,

Woodstock (non-profit land trust) 

Montgomery County, MarylandWashington, D.C.; San Francisco, CaliforniaCambridge, Massachusetts U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Lincoln Institute of Land PolicyJoint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University
Transit-oriented development

Transit oriented-development (TOD) seeks to maximize residential, business, and leisure development within walking distance of public transport. TOD promotes long-term affordability of housing by reducing transportation-related costs of households, while also saving energy and reducing emissions. Zoning bylaws can include development standards to address transportation efficiency, including requiring bicycle racks, transit shelters, and connections to existing sidewalks and bicycle pathways, where appropriate. TOD is sometimes called "smart growth".

  State of California (measure ultimately not passed); Los Angeles, CaliforniaSan Jose, California; Arlington, Virginia; Austin, Texas Transit Oriented Development InstituteMunicipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) 
Overlay districts Areas created to promote certain types of development. Municipalities create separate zoning rules for the overlay district to encourage the intended type of development in addition to pre-existing zoning rules for the larger area. Many areas have overlay districts to protect natural resources or historic neighborhoods, but they can also be used to encourage affordable housing. Burlington State of Massachusetts; Washington DC; Truro, Massachusetts; North Reading, Massachusetts; Buellton, CaliforniaPalo Alto, California Vermont Natural Resources CouncilUniversity of Wisconsin Center for Land Use Education
Planned unit development (PUD) ordinances Municipal regulations that allow developers exemptions from certain zoning requirements in exchange for developing properties with desirable criteria. Some municipalities include PUDs within overlay districts. By allowing greater flexibility in the configuration of buildings on a site or allowing mixed usage of a site, a municipality can encourage more creative and efficient use of a space than is typically allowed in local zoning laws. It can also result in lower infrastructure costs and better coordination of development across an area. Municipalities can choose to make affordable housing a condition for allowing PUDs. Bakersfield, Berkshire, Bolton, Burlington, Charlotte, Colchester, Enosberg, Enosberg Falls, Essex, Essex Junction, Fairfax, Fairfield, Fletcher, Franklin, Georgia, Grand Isle, Highgate, Hinesburg, Huntington, Jericho, Milton, Montgomery, North Hero, Richford, Richmond, Shelburne, Sheldon, South Burlington, South Hero, St. Albans City, St. Albans Town, St. George, Swanton, Underhill, Westford, Winooski State of Michigan; Bonner County, Idaho; Ellensburg, Washington; Portland, Maine Municipal Research and Services CenterUniversity of Wisconsin Center for Land Use EducationMichigan State University Extension; Vermont Planning Information Center;
Cluster developments (AKA cottage housing development AKA conservation-oriented development) Zoning methods in which density regulations are determined for an entire specified area instead of a lot-by-lot basis, allowing more smaller units to be constructed in the area. Cluster development allows the developer greater flexibility in designing projects but preserves the overall density in an area. This can naturally encourage the construction of low-cost and therefore more affordable housing units, but municipalities can also require affordable housing to be developed as a condition of approval for adjusting density requirements. It also has the benefit of preserving open spaces and protecting natural resources. Cluster development is very similar to PUDs, but typically limited to housing use. Bakersfield, Berkshire, Bolton, Burlington, Charlotte, Colchester, Enosberg, Enosberg Falls, Essex, Essex Junction, Fairfax, Fairfield, Fletcher, Georgia, Grand Isle, Highgate, Hinesburg, Huntington, Jericho, Milton, North Hero, Richford, Richmond, Shelburne, Sheldon, South Burlington, South Hero, St. Albans City, St. Albans Town, St. George, Swanton, Underhill, Westford, Williston, Winooski Lehigh Valley Region, Pennsylvania; Kirkland, Washington; New York City; Seattle, Washington; Concord, Massachusetts; Truro, Massachusetts; Medford, Oregon American Planning AssociationState of New York Office for the Aging; The Housing Partnership;
Abide by "as of right" development (AKA "by right" development) Allowing building proposals that fit within the specifications of local zoning policies to proceed "as of right", without additional review. Developers still need to secure a building permit and fulfill customary regulatory requirements, but the approvals process is generally less contentious and/or time-consuming than the process for proposals that require an exception from current zoning regulations. Through the revision of zoning policies, jurisdictions can significantly broaden the types of housing that are allowed as of right, thus simplifying and reducing the cost and time of delivering homes.   State of California (proposed but measure ultimately not passed); Fairfax County, Virginia; Philadelphia The White House; The Urban Land Institute
Expedited permitting and review Streamlining the process of receiving permits for desirable housing projects. Can include leveraging technology to facilitate the permitting process and implementing shorter review timelines for permit approval.   State of Massachusetts; State of Rhode IslandSan Diego, California; Austin, Texas The White HouseU.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentThe Urban Land Institute; National Association of Home Builders
Reducing permitting costs Allowing permit fee reductions, waivers, or deferments for affordable housing projects. Burlington, Charlotte, Hinesburg, Williston Sacramento County, CaliforniaAlbuquerque, New Mexico; Columbia, MissouriAustin, Texas The Urban Land InstituteCenter for Transit-Oriented Development
Reducing impact fees Reducing or waiving impact fees for affordable housing projects. Impact fees are important for municipalities because they require developers to pay their fair share of the costs of providing public services to the new development. However, impact fees can be an additional barrier to developing affordable housing projects. Burlington King County,
Albuquerque, New
Mexico; Redmond City,
; Austin,

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentThe Urban Land InstituteVermont Planning Information Center

Allow for reductions or waivers of typical public works requirements (such as widening roads, improving sidewalks, expanding sewer capacity, or creating recreational facilities) for development of affordable housing   Manatee County,
; Hillsborough
County, Florida
Lancaster County,
 The Urban Land InstituteConnecticut Fair Housing Center;
parking flexibility
Relax parking standards for some types of residential development. This can include waiving parking requirements for mixed use properties when commercial and residential demand peaks at different times of day, or reducing parking requirements for projects near transit, near mixed uses, and where on-street parking is readily available. Bolton, Burlington, Charlotte,
Swanton, Underhill
State of California;
New York City;
Seattle, Washington;
Minnesota; Denver,
The White HouseThe Urban Land InstituteVermont Planning Information Center;
(AKA No net loss
Requires housing units torn down by developers to be replaced with a specified percentage of new housing units to maintain housing stock within a community. In some areas developers have the option of paying a fee in lieu of constructing new housing units, which may be placed in a housing trust
Burlington, South Burlington State of CaliforniaArlington County,
; San Diego,
; San Francisco California
Housing Trust Fund Housing trust funds (HTF) can support construction or rehabilitation of owner or renter homes, including creating Accessory Dwelling Units. HTFs can be used to encourage young families to move in and renovate homes through grants, low-interest loans, or loan forgiveness over time.  Communities may work with state, regional, and county housing trust funds, or may choose to develop a local housing trust fund. Funding sources for HTFs include local options taxes, a percentage of property tax revenue, fund balances, general fund appropriations and dedicated fees.  Burlington, Charlotte, Montpelier, South Burlington Washington DC;
Los Angeles,
; St. Louis,
PolicyLink; Center for Community Change; The Massachusetts Housing Partnership
Rental housing
Promote and enforce safe and healthy living conditions for rental properties. Vermont has some rental housing laws, but municipalities may supplement those laws with municipal rental housing codes. Barre, Bennington, Brandon,
Brattleboro, Burlington, Lyndon,
Montpelier, New Haven, Richford,
Rutland City, St. Johnsbury,
New York City;
Washington DC;
California; Seattle,
Vermont Rental Housing CodesVermont Planning Information Center
"On the record"
Allows testimony from hearings before a municipality’s planning commission, zoning board, or development review board to be incorporated into appeals heard by a Vermont court. This prevents municipalities and plaintiffs from having to reproduce expert testimony at every stage of an appeal, potentially saving significant time and expense. Municipalities have the option to implement this approach into local law under Vermont statue 24 V.S.A. § 4471(b). Brattleboro, Chester, Colchester,
Ludlow town, Ludlow village,
Montgomery, Newport, Norton,
Norwich, Randolph, Shelburne,
Springfield, Stowe, Wells, Windsor


Tax vacant land  Vacant and abandoned properties are not only missed housing opportunities, but also can harm the surrounding neighborhood. Municipalities can enact vacant property registration ordinances that require individuals to register vacant land. Owners may be required to pay fees for vacant properties, which may be increased the longer it remains vacant, incentivizing owners to redevelop. Concept can overlap with land value taxation   State of PennsylvaniaOakland, CaliforniaWashington D.C. The White HousePew Center, The World Bank, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
Land bank Land banks are government-created nonprofit corporations designed to convert tax-delinquent and abandoned properties or land donations into affordable housing or other community uses.   State of New York; Dallas, TexasDetroit, MichiganPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania; Richmond, VirginiaSt. Louis, Missouri The White House; Next City; Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; Center for Community ProgressU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development