Best Housing Practices

Chapter XI, Best Housing Practices, of the regional housing plan includes a review of best housing practices, with two areas of focus. The first area of focus is on programs and methods that have been successful in producing affordable housing. The second is on best practices in housing and neighborhood design.

Affordable Housing Best Practices 

Practices described in Chapter XI include: fair share programs; assisted housing mobility programs; land use control practices, including flexible zoning regulations; tax increment financing (TIF); housing trust funds; housing collaboratives; HUD community planning and development programs; and faith-based and other private housing programs. A few of these practices are summarized below:

  • Fair Share Programs - The concept of fair share housing is to promote an equitable distribution of affordable housing throughout a region. A target number of affordable housing units is typically assigned to each municipality in a region with a fair share program, typically by a body that is regional in scope. States typically facilitate these programs through a builder’s remedy, which allows an enforcement agency or review body to override local government decisions, based on an appeal by a developer, that prevent the development of affordable housing through denial of an application or by imposing conditions of approval that make the project economically infeasible. Wisconsin does not have builder’s remedy legislation in place.
  • Land Use Control Practices - Local governments that provide sanitary sewer and other urban services should provide areas within the community for the development of new single- and two-family homes at densities equivalent to lots of 10,000 square feet or smaller, with homes sizes of less than 1,200 square feet, to allow the development of housing affordable to moderate-income households. These communities should also provide areas for the development of multi-family housing at a density of at least 10 units per acre to allow the development of housing affordable to lower-income households. Such areas should be identified in community comprehensive plans. In addition, communities should include at least one district that allows single-family residential development of this nature and one district that allows multi-family residential development of this nature in their zoning ordinances.
    Flexible zoning regulations such as planned unit development (PUD), traditional neighborhood development (TND), density bonuses for affordable housing, and accessory dwelling units may facilitate the development of affordable single-family and multi-family housing.
    • Density Bonus  - A density bonus is a flexible zoning regulation used to allow for additional residential units beyond the maximum for which a parcel is zoned in exchange for the provision or preservation of affordable housing units on the same site or another location.
    • Accessory Dwelling Units - An accessory dwelling unit (ADU), sometimes referred to as a mother-in-law apartment or granny flat, is a secondary dwelling unit with a kitchen and bathroom established in conjunction with and clearly subordinate to a primary dwelling unit. Although ADUs are often intended for occupancy by a relative of the residents of the primary dwelling, ADUs could also be a source of affordable housing in communities oriented towards single-family neighborhoods.
  • Tax Increment Financing (TIF) - Wisconsin’s tax increment finance (TIF) legislation was amended in 2009 to allow municipalities to extend the life of a tax increment district (TID) for one year after paying off the TID project costs. Tax revenue from the value increment in that year must be used to benefit the community’s affordable housing and improve the community’s housing stock.
  • Housing Trust Funds - Housing trust funds are distinct funds typically established by a local, county, or state government to provide a predictable, stable source of revenue reserved solely for addressing affordable housing needs. Dedicated housing trust funds are associated with a source of funding that will continue to provide resources on an ongoing basis without being subject to an annual appropriations process, and can be a reliable funding mechanism to meet affordable housing needs when other sources of public funding may be limited. A benefit of housing trust funds is that the governing jurisdiction can control how the funds are spent without Federal restrictions, allowing the funds to be tailored to meet particular local needs, some of which may be ineligible for funding through other programs. Common uses of housing trust fund dollars include: the production, preservation, rehabilitation, or maintenance of affordable housing units; homebuyer assistance such as counseling, down payment and mortgage assistance, and interest subsidies; rental assistance; and creating and improving homeless shelters. To aid in the development of affordable housing units, housing trust funds typically provide gap financing, or funds to fill part or all of the gap remaining between the real cost of producing housing and the amount raised after all other funding sources have been secured. Housing trust funds were established by the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The City of Milwaukee Housing Trust Fund has proposed a merger of the two trust funds, and a possible expansion to other communities outside of Milwaukee County.

Housing and Neighborhood Design Best Practices

Housing and neighborhood design is a principal consideration in the development of housing recommendations for the Region, particularly as they relate to planning for environmentally responsible, safe, accessible, attractive, and convenient residential development. Practices described in Chapter XI include: environmentally responsible construction techniques; environmentally responsible development concepts including transit oriented development (TOD), traditional neighborhood development (TND), brownfield redevelopment, and sound land and water management practices; the eco-municipality framework; crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED); accessible housing practices; and development design standards. A few of these practices are summarized below:

  • Environmentally Responsible Building Practices - Environmentally responsible building practices, commonly referred to as “green” building practices, involve a wide range of concepts, from energy conservation to natural resource protection. Local governments can provide incentives to encourage environmentally responsible construction techniques. Structural incentives can include modification in zoning ordinance and permit review processes. Financial incentives can include tax credits and abatements, fee reductions or waivers, grants, and the use of revolving loan funds. Environmentally responsible development relates to arranging land uses and site features to include or be in close proximity to services, employment centers, and transportation options such as transit, sidewalks, and bike paths. Environmentally responsible development should also protect natural features and productive agricultural land in accordance with adopted plans and regulations. Local governments can incorporate several environmentally responsible development concepts into their planning efforts to encourage implementation of regional plans, including transit oriented development, traditional neighborhood development, brownfield redevelopment, and infill and mixed use development.
    • Transit Oriented Development (TOD) - Transit oriented development (TOD) refers to compact, mixed use development whose internal design is intended to maximize access to a transit stop. TODs are most commonly associated with rail transit oriented development, which is a primary challenge to TODs in Southeastern Wisconsin. Potential TODs could be supported through the development of the Milwaukee Streetcar.
    • Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) - A traditional neighborhood development (TND) incorporates many of the same concepts as a TOD because they are compact, mixed use neighborhoods where residential, commercial, and civic buildings are near each other, or in the same building. In addition, the TND concept does not necessarily rely on a transit component, so it is appropriate for smaller communities that desire compact, mixed use development, but cannot support public transit service.
    • Brownfield Redevelopment - The Region has experienced an increase in vacant and underutilized sites once devoted to industrial, commercial, and related uses, with concentrations in older central city areas. The reuse of these sites is frequently constrained by contamination, giving rise to the term “brownfields.” The cleanup of brownfields has many potential benefits in addition to environmental benefits, which can include the elimination of blight, an increase in property tax base, expansion of housing stock, provision of jobs near concentrations of labor force and existing affordable housing, and efficient use of existing public infrastructure.
  • Neighborhood Safety - The crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) concept is based on the idea that the proper design of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the incidence and fear of crime and increase quality of life. Building design and site layouts that help residents monitor their surroundings and separate public and private spaces can help increase neighborhood safety and prevent crime.
    More information about CPTED is provided in this summary from the American Planning Association:
  • Development Design Standards - Achievement of communities and neighborhoods that are functional, safe, and attractive, as recommended in the regional land use and housing plans, ultimately depend on good design of individual development and redevelopment sites. In addition to the use of the best practices described in Chapter XI, local governments can promote good site design through the development of design standards. Design standards should reflect both regional and local development objectives. The best way to ensure compliance with design standards is to incorporate those standards into local land use controls, particularly zoning and land division control ordinances.

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