Housing policy planning

As the shifting housing market alters people's preferences—and vice-versa—many communities struggle to understand if the housing they have will meet the needs of residents, both now and in the future. Forward looking housing planning is critical for any municipality. Carefully matching the ongoing demand for housing with current and possible future supply can help communities develop long-term housing policy plans based on sound research and input from their residents.

There are other major advantages related to actively engaging in housing planning:

  • Citizen involvement in the planning process right from the start. Rather than jumping into development projects, successful communities create housing commissions or similar bodies to carefully study the local housing market, zoning rules, and construction regulations to consider ways to provide housing options for all types of residents. No one is shut out of their deliberations. A broad range of input is encouraged.
  • Encourages a focus on the “big picture”—longer term housing development throughout the community—as opposed to “one shot” discussions of a given development proposal. Residents who understand the “big picture” are more likely to be more supportive of proposed developments that fit into long-term housing plans.

Tools such as the Homes for a Changing Region Toolkit program created by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, and Metropolitan Planning Council can be of great value to any community developing a forward-looking housing plan. The Homes Toolkit helps communities grapple with the following questions.

  • What might the future population of my municipality look like?
  • Is my community’s current housing stock suitable for future residents?
  • What is my community’s capacity to accommodate future residents?
  • Are my residents spending too much of their income on housing costs?
  • What types of housing will my community need in the future: owner-occupied versus rental, small-lot single-family homes versus large-lot homes, town homes, apartment buildings, etc.?

The methodology incorporated into the Homes Toolkit has already been successfully used in 43 different and diverse Chicago area communities. The Homes Toolkit and the Homes for a Changing Region housing policy plans that these communities developed can be reviewed by accessing the Housing Planning section of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus website.

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