December 10: Virtual news conference on Nebraska housing needs
VIRTUAL NEWS CONFERENCE with the Platte Institute
Contact: Adam Weinberg
TODAY: Build More Housing
Virtual news conference on Nebraska housing needs
OMAHA, NE – The Platte Institute will host a virtual news conference for its latest policy brief “Build More Housing: Land Use Reform Opportunities for Nebraska’s Cities.” A copy of the report is available here in PDF format and is now online at PlatteInstitute.org/Policy.
A new state law (LB866) requires Nebraska cities with a population of at least 20,000 to submit action plans for increasing affordable housing in their communities. The paper discusses reforms Nebraska’s cities can make to local zoning policies to remove regulatory obstacles to building more affordable housing options. Cities impacted by the requirement include Omaha, Lincoln, Bellevue, Grand Island, Kearney, Fremont, Hastings, Norfolk, North Platte, Columbus, and Papillion.
The news conference will be held on Zoom TODAY, December 10, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. Central Time. Registration is required at this link.
Report author Emily Hamilton, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, will provide an overview of the paper and take Q&A through Zoom. The program may be recorded for broadcast. Video and audio recordings will also be included in a release after the conference.
Here are highlights from the report:
- Housing prices in Nebraska are now higher than they were prior to the 2007 housing cash. Median house prices in Omaha, Lincoln, and Bellevue exceed $200,000, while the median in Grand Island and Fremont is greater than $150,000. About one quarter of Nebraska’s low-income renters are cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Researchers have found that as people spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, adverse outcomes rise, including their likelihood of homelessness.
- Since the 1940s, the share of housing units like duplexes, triplexes, or fourplexes has fallen from about 25% of the housing stock to about 15%. Housing affordability advocates have identified this missing middle housing as an important option because households can economize on land costs while maintaining low construction costs. Loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration can also be used to purchase buildings with one to four housing units, making missing middle structures an attractive option for homeowners who want to live in one unit and rent the others.
- Local zoning restrictions are creating obstacles to permitting more missing middle housing in the market. Zoning requirements from the largest residential districts in Nebraska’s 11 most populated cities mandate residential lot sizes range from 5,000 to 9,000 square feet. Only one city allows Accessory Dwelling Units, like basement and garage apartments or backyard cottages, to be built in the largest residential district (Fremont), and all but one require lots to be built with 2 parking spaces per dwelling unit (Bellevue being the exception).
- New housing construction improves affordability through a process known as filtering. When one household moves into a new unit, they generally free up a lower cost housing unit somewhere in the region. According to one study, 100 new market-rate apartment units free up 17-39 housing units in Census tracts with below median incomes. Making it feasible for new market-rate units to be less expensive ensures that this filtering process does more to improve region-wide affordability.
- Permitting more housing units per lot and reducing minimum lot size requirements in city zoning codes makes missing middle housing construction more feasible. In 1998, Houston reduced the minimum lot size within its centrally-located I-610 loop from 5,000 square feet to functionally 1,400 square feet. The result is that three townhouses can now be built where only a single-family house would have been permitted previously, resulting in tens of thousands of new townhouses.
- Besides reforming zoning requirements that are not designed with missing middle housing options in mind, cities must allow a fast, simple approval process for building or redeveloping housing, with rules that permit cost-effective construction.
For more information on this release, please contact Adam Weinberg at (402) 500-0209 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Platte Institute advances policies that remove barriers to growth and opportunity in Nebraska. More media resources are available at PlatteInstitute.org/Media.