A Reflection on Zoning Reform versus Protecting Neighborhood Character, Housing North Housing Ready Program Update, and NAR Comments on NFIP Reauthorization and Reform
This week we lead off with a reflection on the concept of protecting neighborhood character in the context of the Traverse City Planning Commission’s ongoing zoning reform discussions, then take a look at what Housing North’s Housing Ready Program has been up to, and the National Association of REALTORS supports the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization and reform legislation
1. A Reflection on Zoning Reform versus Protecting Neighborhood Character
I came across an interview of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (Hawaii) this past week in which he advocates for increasing housing supply through an $85 million federal grant program that rewards state, local, and regional jurisdictions for addressing exclusionary zoning practices, land use policies, and housing infrastructure to increase the supply of affordable housing. His remarks are well in line with what the National Association of REALTORS called for in the commissioned report Housing is Critical Infrastructure: Social and Economic Benefits of Building More Housing and with what we at Aspire North REALTORS advocated for in our Letter of Support to the Traverse City Planning Commission. The following statement by Senator Schatz stood out to me in particular:
“For me (Senator Schatz), the seminal moment when I became an aggressively yes-in-my-backyard person was when I fully understood that zoning—exclusionary zoning in particular, restrictive covenants—came right after Jim Crow was outlawed by the Supreme Court of the United States. Folks that wanted to continue the legacy of Jim Crow figured out a way to do that which would pass constitutional muster. And so all of that stuff was designed to keep primarily Black people out of affluent neighborhoods. Even though there are a lot of progressives and environmentalists who invoke the phrase “Protect the character of our neighborhood,” we need to note that history there is pretty dark.”
Over the years, I have heard numerous concerns about ‘protecting neighborhood character’ from citizens in the community, including the discussions of proposed zoning changes at the Traverse City Planning Commission Study Session this past Tuesday, April 18th. With it being Fair Housing Month, I would like to say how proud I am to be a part of local, state, and national associations that have the courage to support zoning reform to increase housing attainability, support expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and uphold a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice supporting “the highest and best use of the land and the widest distribution of land ownership” in “the interests of the nation and its citizens.”
2. Housing North Housing Ready Program Update
Housing North, a cross-sector group of regional housing partners working to overcome the communications, policy, and financial barriers that stand in the way of housing solutions, recently provided a quarterly update on their Housing Ready Program. Housing North has Housing Ready Program Directors working in Leelanau, Emmet and Manistee Counties to bring housing solutions and support changes that support an environment where housing development can occur including Master Plan and zoning reform and advocating for specific housing development projects. Housing North is also working in Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Missuakee and Wexford counties. Check out what they have been up to here.
3. NAR Comments on NFIP Reauthorization and Reform
On March 8, 2023, the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) submitted a statement supporting the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization and reform legislation for a hearing convened by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance. Critical provisions supported in the NFIP Reauthorization Act by NAR include:
- Reauthorize the NFIP for five years
- Encourage a more robust private market to help close the flood insurance gap
- Modernize mapping for better risk assessments
- Ensure consumers are charged actuarily fair rates while enhancing affordability through mitigation
- Require NFIP to exchange property “flood facts” data with private insurers and disclose the claims history directly to buyers and renters.
View NAR’s complete statement here.