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Cityscape: Volume 25 Number 2 | Recent Reforms in Zoning | Learning from Land Use Reforms: The Case of Ramapo, New York


Recent Reforms in Zoning

Volume 25 Number 2

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Learning from Land Use Reforms: The Case of Ramapo, New York

Joseph Weil Huennekens
Columbia GSAPP

Many state and local governments are currently reforming zoning to increase housing production, especially of dense, small multifamily options (often known as missing middle housing). However, not all efforts to reform single-family zoning are new. For instance, the suburban town of Ramapo, New York, has continuously loosened development rules for nearly 4 decades, providing an unusually long timeline for a case study of zoning reform. This article uses quantitative and qualitative data to assess the impact of zoning reform in Ramapo. The case shows that the introduction of multifamily zoning—even in built-out suburban neighborhoods—can spur the large-scale production of new housing units. By contrast, laws that allow only for accessory units have more limited effects. The town’s experience also demonstrates the importance of infrastructural investment to serve new housing supply, especially when added in suburban areas. Finally, it shows that, at least in an unusually pro-growth political environment, discretionary review and parking requirements do not automatically hinder housing production.

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