According to Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for the National Association of Home Builders there are five L’s that create barriers for the development of housing: labor, land/lots, laws, lending and lumber. In April I highlighted information on Lumber and the scarcity of materials and the impacts that rising prices have on the ability to develop new affordable home projects. While prices are still at significantly higher levels than we have seen historically, the last month has seen a steady decline compared to the historical highs of May. This month I want to focus on two additional “L’s” in Dietz’s list; the Land/Lots and Laws.
“Land/Lots” is simply the space available for developers to build new homes with all the necessary infrastructure or the ability to easily connect to necessary infrastructure. The availability (or lack thereof) of buildable lots is another factor limiting the number of new homes being developed. Ignite is focused on trying to help alleviate part of this challenge with the creating of a small housing development area that will be focused on providing space for affordable homes to be built in the $175,000 to $225,000 price point. We recognize that this price point doesn’t serve everyone but by following the guidance offered in our Housing study this is a good place for us to start our efforts in trying to open up more opportunities.
“Laws” is a reference to the rules and regulations established at the local level as Planning and Zoning Regulations. Currently, the City of Emporia is in the process of updating the planning and zoning regulations to better reflect our Comprehensive Plan that was adopted unanimously in 2017. The proposed new regulations will offer developers more flexibility in designing developments that can be help encourage the development of more affordable houses. The ability to adjust set-backs, dimensions and lot sizes will be critical in helping to create a variety of housing options in the near future, and being consistent with the regulations that have already been adopted by Lyon County will be important.
Over the next two months as the Emporia Metropolitan Planning and Zoning Commissioner reviews and discusses the proposed new regulations it is important that the community voices their concerns on efforts to roll back the flexible designs with more restrictive regulations on lot sizes and dimensions. Regulations set in place should not be determined on what individuals involved personally prefer, but instead on what serves the needs of our community in a safe and affordable way. I encourage anyone interested in our current housing problem and by extension the labor availability issues locally to voice their support for less restrictive, more flexible regulations that encourages development in our communities.