Zillow’s latest housing survey revealed overwhelming support for accessory dwelling units, duplexes, triplexes and other dense-housing complexes as housing costs have doubled from pre-pandemic levels.
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After decades of resistance to upzoning, Americans are finally embracing the idea as record-low inventory and other market factors push housing costs to untenable levels.
“More and more people understand that the key to stopping runaway housing costs is to build more homes,” Zillow Senior Population Scientist Manny Garcia said on Thursday. “There is majority support among renters and homeowners, higher and lower wage earners, suburban and urban households, who all say we need more housing and support it in their neighborhoods.”
In the property portal’s survey of 14,000 U.S. adults, 82 percent supported at least one type of additional housing in their neighborhood including new accessory dwelling units (ADUs), duplexes, triplexes and apartment buildings.
Renters (89 percent) and urbanites (89 percent) were more likely than homeowners (78 percent) and suburbanites (78 percent) to support densification efforts. Income had little impact, with respondents making up to $50,000 annually and respondents making up to $100,000 annually supporting upzoning efforts nearly equally at 83 percent and 82 percent, respectively.
“Close to two-thirds of respondents to Zillow’s most recent survey are concerned about the cost of housing in their neighborhood,” Garcia said of the respondents’ overwhelming support of densification.
ADUs garnered the most support with 84 percent of respondents welcoming this kind of development in their city. Small (<10 units) condominium complexes (76 percent) and duplexes and triplexes (78 percent) also received overwhelming support.
Support for larger building projects was strong but still lagged behind lower-density options. Seventy-four percent of respondents supported fourplexes and fiveplexes (74 percent) and medium condominium and apartment complexes (10-49 units). Large complexes (>50 units) received the least amount of support at 73 percent.
“Allowing ADUs, duplexes and triplexes in zones previously limited to single-family houses is often referred to as ‘modest densification,’ creating ‘missing middle’ housing types that fall between single-family homes and large multifamily apartment buildings,” the report explains. “Relaxing zoning rules to allow more housing supply is the best way to address the nation’s ongoing housing affordability crisis, according to an independent panel of economists and housing experts.”
Garcia said the recent boom in support for upzoning — another term for modest densification — is related to skyrocketing housing costs. Since 2020, the typical monthly mortgage has doubled and the typical monthly rent has increased by 25 percent.
This trend may give new life to upzoning efforts in California, Nebraska and Virginia that stalled in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Of the upzoning efforts that made national headlines, lawmakers in Minneapolis and Oregon were the only ones to successfully reform decades-old zoning laws.
Zillow’s survey found widespread support for upzoning across all regions — providing a new window of opportunity for lawmakers who previously failed to change zoning laws.
“A large majority of respondents in these markets believe local governments should do more to address housing affordability, and most vote in local elections, but their opinions are mixed on adding larger buildings in their neighborhoods to address the crisis,” Garcia said. “For policymakers and residents in these markets, finding consensus on the best path forward is a new challenge.”