HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 05-092
Brian Sullivan
(202) 708-0685

For Release
June 29, 2005

Local leaders hailed for creating national models for cutting red tape

WASHINGTON - Police officers, firefighters, school teachers and returning veterans are finding a home they can afford thanks to the efforts of 14 local communities from around the nation being recognized today by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson. Each of these local governments received HUD's Robert L. Woodson Jr. Award for reducing burdensome regulations that unnecessarily inflate the cost of homes. During an awards ceremony in Washington, Jackson said these local governments are models for other communities looking to encourage more affordable housing.

"All across this country, local leaders are answering the call and demonstrating they can get the job done when it comes to cutting red tape and encouraging the production of affordable housing," said Jackson. "I hope other communities around the nation look to these places for creative ways to reduce regulatory barriers, making it easier for working families to afford a home of their own."

Communities receiving the Robert L. Woodson Jr. Award are:

Austin, Texas
Carolina, Puerto Rico
Chicago, Ill.
Cincinnati, Ohio
Corte Madera, Calif.

Fitzgerald, Ga.
Fort Collins, Colo.
Grand Forks, N.D.
King County, Wash.
Orlando, Fla.

Oxnard, Calif.
San Antonio, Texas
Santa Fe, N.M.
White Plains, N.Y.

The Robert L. Woodson Jr. Award

The Robert L. Woodson Jr. Award is named in memory of HUD's late chief of staff and is designed to recognize local governments who aggressively work to reduce regulatory barriers to affordable housing. Prior to coming to HUD and serving as the Department's Chief of Staff in 2002, Woodson served as senior policy advisor on housing and community development issues for President Bush's campaign for president. He also served as a senior aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Chief of Staff for Rep. Bob Inglis (South Carolina), and as a budget analyst for the House Budget Committee.

In addition, Woodson worked to help low-income persons achieve economic self-sufficiency as a project director and spokesperson for the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a national organization that helps community- and faith-based groups reduce crime and violence, revitalize low-income neighborhoods and create economic enterprise. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Woodson received a B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in urban studies.

America's Affordable Community Initiative

Regulatory barriers to affordable housing are public regulatory requirements, payments or processes that significantly impede the development and availability of affordable housing without providing a commensurate health and/or safety benefit. These barriers can impede housing rehabilitation, limit supply and raise the cost of new development by up to 35 percent. As a result,

millions of Americans are priced out of buying or renting the kind of housing they otherwise could afford.

In 2003, HUD made barrier reduction one of the Department's top priorities and created America's Affordable Community Initiative. HUD continues to review its own regulations to identify those that effectively discourage the production of affordable housing. Meanwhile, HUD is aggressively working with state and local leaders to create more affordable housing-friendly environments around the country. More information about this important priority.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and


Robert L. Woodson Jr. Award Recipients

Austin, Texas

In 1999, a groundbreaking report entitled Through the Roof described how the lack of affordable housing in Austin had reached crisis proportions. This analysis concluded that regulatory barriers, cumbersome and costly review processes, and the NIMBY phenomenon contributed to this crisis. In response, the City of Austin created the SMARTInitiative (Safe, Mixed-income, Accessible, Transit-oriented, Reasonably priced, Meets green building standards) to stimulate affordable housing production. According to the city, nearly 4,000 affordably priced homes have been completed since the initiative's inception in 2001.

Specific actions taken:

  • Austin is making surplus city-owned land available to non-profit housing organizations at below-market prices for the development of affordable housing.
  • The city created a new process to review all proposed changes to city codes, rules, neighborhood plans, and development fees to determine if there is a negative impact on affordable housing.
  • Planners created a fast-track review of proposed SMART housing developments and establishment of a new streamlined review process.
  • Local housing officials are facilitating an open dialogue between housing developers and neighborhood organizations to defuse "NIMBYISM" thereby promoting early identification and resolution of concerns and issues.
  • Austin is waiving certain fees based on the amount of affordably priced housing contained in a proposed SMART development.

Carolina, Puerto Rico

Municipalities in Puerto Rico operate in a regulatory environment totally different from those found on the U.S. mainland. In most cases, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is directly involved in the process of providing many of the required permits and approvals for building construction and rehabilitation. As a result, getting approval to build or restore affordable housing tends to be slow, costly and unresponsive. Taking advantage of new legislation, the Carolina Municipio assumed almost all of the regulatory responsibilities for housing development. Combining regulatory reform with innovative financing and other incentives, affordable housing construction increased from 400 units between 1992 and 2000, to 1000 units between 2001 and 2004.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • Carolina Municipio initiated reform of Commonwealth Law of Autonomous Municipalities.
  • Local leaders restructured planning and permitting with specific timetables reducing approval times from six months to 10-15 days.
  • The municipality waived permit fees for affordable housing developments.
  • Carolina created an inventory of all available Commonwealth and city-owned land to facilitate potential affordable housing development.
  • Housing and redevelopment officials lowered the cost of land through release of public property, consolidated small lots, and then released encumbered properties for development.
  • Local officials changed the bidding process for city-built housing, resulting in significant savings.

Chicago, Illinois

The City of Chicago has staged a strong economic comeback in the 1990s that aggravated an already serious affordable housing gap. The windy city saw 100,000 new residents in that time but managed to produce only 20,000 new housing units. This supply gap impacts a broad spectrum of Chicago residents, especially members of the service community who are essential for the healthy functioning of the city. In 2001, Chicago responded by creating the Partnership for Affordable Neighborhoods, which provides a broad array of incentives to private developers to build more affordable housing. To date, nearly 400 affordable housing units have been developed with members of the city's public service workforce (teachers, police officers and firefighters) being the primary beneficiaries.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • Chicago provides a variety of incentives, including density bonuses, expedited permit reviews, waiver of various permit fees, and infrastructure investments for market rate condominium and townhouse developments that include affordably priced units for moderate-income families.
  • Affordably priced units must be included in all market rate developments that receive city financial assistance and/or city-owned land at discounted prices.
  • Local officials offer density bonuses for affordable housing in Chicago's booming central area.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is an older city with an aging housing stock and a large need for affordable housing. Many of the existing lots are very narrow, pre-Civil War "shot gun" lots, yet existing zoning assumed more contemporary lot configurations. In 2002, Cincinnati passed a resolution mandating "full scale regulatory reform" as part of the city's revitalization efforts. Although new zoning did not go into effect until 2004, prior regulatory reforms alone increased single-family production from 97 units in 2003 to 158 units in 2004.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • Cincinnati developed a new zoning code that allows 2000 sq/ft and 4000 sq/ft lots in older neighborhoods, permits clustered housing and provides for reduced requirements for side yards and setbacks.
  • The city established a One Stop Development Center to coordinate all permitting and processing and provide builders with a single point of contact, greatly streamlining the approval process.
  • Local officials established a cooperative pre-development meeting process involving all agencies to resolve all development issues at one time.

Town of Corte Madera, California

Corte Madera is a small community located in affluent Marin County, California. Originally, the town was home to modestly priced housing built to accommodate post World War II growth. Over time, however, decreasing land supply, surging demand, economic growth and unnecessary or excessive regulations resulted in skyrocketing home prices. Today, the average sales price of a home in Corte Madera is more than $800,000.

In 2002, the town began to focus on regulatory barriers. Corte Madera changed its land use and related regulations to encourage affordable housing through the creation of an Affordable Housing District as well as other broad-based regulatory reforms. For a small town, results have been dramatic-a 79-unit affordable housing project, various mixed-use projects with low-income and work force housing units, and a number of accessory or "granny flat" units.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • Corte Madera created an Affordable Housing Mixed Use District that tripled density and required at least 50 percent of units be affordable.
  • The town increased densities in a number of residential districts.
  • The town waived most fees reducing the cost of building or rehabilitating affordable homes.
  • Local officials reduced parking standards for all affordable housing.
  • The town streamlined environmental reviews and other approval requirements for mixed-use and accessory units.

Fitzgerald, Georgia

Fitzgerald is a small city located in an overwhelmingly rural area and faced years of economic decline. Fitzgerald is rebuilding entire neighborhoods and providing significant amounts of affordable housing by taking advantage of state redevelopment laws, public/private partnerships, and regulatory reform. The city became a redevelopment agency under state law and was able to clear blighted units and assemble land for development. Combined with regulatory reform, Fitzgerald made it easier for developers to build infill housing As a result of the city's efforts, more than 315 units of affordable housing have been built or rehabilitated with additional units in the pipeline. Formerly decaying neighborhoods are now experiencing significant private investment.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • The city used redevelopment authority to clear land and assemble infill sites for redevelopment;
  • Local housing and redevelopment officials allowed manufactured housing in most residential districts, subject to site and design standards;
  • The city enacted flexible land development standards with streamlined approvals provided at staff level;
  • City leaders implemented major administrative reforms including batch processing of building permits;
  • Fitzgerald waives or adjusts setback, side and other development standards allowing for a more relaxed regulatory environment for affordable housing; and,
  • The city waives fees on an as-needed basis.

Fort Collins, Colorado

The City of Fort Collins has a long history of addressing regulatory barriers in order to achieve housing affordability. As early as 1984, local land use controls provided for density bonuses to developers of affordable housing, a technique just now being adopted in many communities. Following the creation of an affordable housing task force in 1992, the city undertook a series of major regulatory changes. Fort Collins institutionalized regulatory reform by creating a public/private Affordable Housing Board whose primary responsibility is to recommend to the city council new regulatory reform proposals. As a result, a continuing series of reform actions have been put in place over a ten-year period. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 units of market-rate and assisted affordable housing have been built.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • The city offers developers "density bonuses" for affordable housing.
  • Fort Collins created an Affordable Housing Board to recommend new reform efforts to the city council.
  • Payments of impact fees are delayed until occupancy and impact fee rebates are offered for affordable rental housing.
  • Reducing the required widths of streets and sidewalks significantly lowered the cost of housing.
  • Priority is given for processing of affordable housing developments reducing the time between permit application and development.
  • Sales and use tax rebates are offered on materials builders purchase for the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing.
  • The city provides exemptions on fees for inspections, right of way, and street cuts on affordable housing developments.
  • Fort Collins requires a cost- impact analysis prior to any changes to the city's building code.
  • Affordable housing builders enjoy more relaxed bonding and landscaping requirements.
  • The review time in Fort Collins has been cut by 40 percent due to tighter timeliness controls and increased staff assigned for conflict resolution.
    The city initiated a major affordable housing marketing effort.

Grand Forks, North Dakota

In 1997, devastating floods destroyed more than 800 homes in Grand Forks. Since then, the city has undertaken an aggressive rebuilding program focused on affordable housing. Local leaders recognized there is no single solution and created a "tool box" of incentives to stimulate the construction of affordable homes including an affordable housing "infill" program and the establishment of "affordable housing districts." In exchange for special concessions on tax assessments and land standards, developers in these areas agree to build higher density, smaller entry-level homes. In the years prior to these efforts, only 14 affordable units were built in the entire city. Since 2002, of the 106 homes built in the affordable housing districts, over 57 percent meet affordable housing target prices.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • Grand Forks waived a required 50 percent developer's contribution for infrastructure.
  • Local tax authorities deferred special assessments imposed on buyers of affordable housing.
  • City officials granted a two-year property tax exemption for the first $75,000 of a home's assessed value.
  • Likewise, the city granted a three-year property tax exemption for increased values resulting from rehabilitation.
  • Grand Forks reduced special assessment rates.
  • The city relaxed land development requirements (i.e., narrower road widths) and reduced right of ways.
  • To encourage more development of affordable housing, local leaders reduced previous lot size requirements.
  • Developers seeking zoning variances now find a more flexible, relaxed application process.

King County, Washington

King County is extremely large geographic area encompassing the Seattle metropolitan area as well as large tracks of farming, forestry, and recreational land. Under state-mandated growth management requirements, King County established a comprehensive plan that works to achieve orderly growth, to protect farmland and open spaces, and to provide an adequate supply of housing. To achieve this balance, county officials made major changes to local zoning and land development statutes to increase housing density and to streamline review processes. Though King County has experienced unprecedented growth and must meet rigorous growth management requirements, homes in the Seattle market area are similar in affordability to those nationally. In the face declining land supply and increasing housing demand, King County has maintained its overall housing affordability through regulatory reform.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • King County changed zoning in most areas to eliminate minimum lot sizes.
  • Reversing a traditional regulatory requirement, the county established a unique requirement for minimum densities.
  • The county allows multifamily housing in many formerly single-family residential areas.
  • Many exclusively residential areas are permitted for mixed use.
  • Permitted, as of right, accessory units in all lots over 10,000 sq/ft.
  • Provided new zoning for town homes and zero lot line development
  • Changed zoning to allow for small cottage housing at twice normal densities.
  • Increased customer service, streamlined environmental requirements for small developments, and provided for preapproval of commonly used house plans.

Orlando, Florida

Orlando is no stranger to extraordinarily rapid growth and the need for affordable housing. As early as 1994, the city recognized that changes in land development and regulatory practices were needed if affordable market-based, as well as assisted housing, were to be built in large numbers. Through a series of reforms specifically targeted at affordable housing, more than 6,000 affordable housing units have been built. Most remarkably, a third of these units have been built entirely by the private sector with just local regulatory and related incentives.

Specific Action Taken:

  • Orlando offers reimbursement of sewer and transportation fees as well as significant discounts on school impact fees for developers of affordable homes.
  • The city implemented flexible, less costly land development standards.
  • Local leaders reduced transportation capacity fees and provide density bonuses for affordable housing.
  • Orlando reduces and, in some cases, waives land development fees for developers of affordable housing, significantly reducing the cost of production.
  • The city implemented a public/private cooperative planning process for fast track approval through development review process.

Oxnard, California

Oxnard is located north of Los Angeles in a fast growing county with significant growth management controls. With restrictions on land supply and growing market demand, prices in the metropolitan area are rising at a very rapid rate. Between 1999 and 2004, the median price of a home had gone from $169,000 to $445,000. In response to these intense market pressures, Oxnard is undertaking a series of significant broad-based regulatory reforms to reduce costs and increase supply. Hundreds of affordable units have resulted from these measures.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • Oxnard provides a Density Bonus and Incentive Program to developers of affordable housing-offering a maximum 25 percent bonus to developers who dedicate 10 percent of their units for lower families.
  • The city reduces or entirely waives most development fees (water, wastewater, drainage, traffic, parks) for infill housing without income condition.
  • For developers who devote 10 percent of their units for very low-income families (or 20 percent for low-income households), the city defers or waives most development fees.
  • In addition, the city provides major waivers or adjustments to development standards where significant numbers of lower income housing are to be built.
  • The city offers "special use" permits if substantial land use improvements result (with variances for density, area, yard, height, parking and related requirements).
  • Local leaders provide expedited development approvals by administrative staff if projects are consistent with the city's plans.

San Antonio, Texas

The City of San Antonio confronted it housing affordability challenge by addressing the twin problems of neighborhood revitalization and regulatory barriers. San Antonio's Edgewood community needed revitalization but that goal was impeded by a host of regulatory barriers including excessive zoning and subdivision requirements, high land acquisition costs, cumbersome development review processes, inefficient permitting procedures, and burdensome impact fees.

In partnership with the Greater San Antonio Builders Association, the city launched the Affordable Showcase of Homes to revitalize the Edgewood community through the development of a series of affordable housing subdivisions. Since its inception a decade ago, the Affordable Showcase of Homes has produced nearly 250 affordable homes and has also spurred the development of affordable housing communities in adjacent neighborhoods.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • San Antonio granted density bonuses for the development of affordably priced housing.
  • The city waived impact fees on all the new affordable housing developments in the Showcase neighborhoods.
  • Local officials exempted Showcase communities from building permit and platting fees.
  • Surplus land was set aside for affordable home construction.
  • Some homebuyers in Showcase neighborhoods were offered down payment and closing cost assistance.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

By the early 1990s, the City of Santa Fe was facing a housing affordability crisis. At that time three quarters of its residents could not afford a median priced home, and housing costs were 40 percent above the national average. One of the country's major tourist destinations, Santa Fe was experiencing dramatic increases in land and housing prices, while complicated development processes and restrictive land use policies further hampered efforts to provide affordable housing opportunities.

To address these problems, Santa Fe embarked on an aggressive campaign to encourage affordable housing development in the following ways: The city enacted an innovative zoning policy to increase densities; reduced or waived a series of impact and review fees; reformed subdivision and land development standards; and, streamlined review and permitting procedures. As a result of these innovations, nearly 16 percent of all new homes built in Santa Fe during the last decade are affordable for working families.

Specific Actions Taken:

  • Santa Fe accelerated the processing of housing developments that include at least 25 percent affordably priced housing.
  • The city waives or reduces various impact, processing, and permitting fees for affordable housing developments.
  • Local officials exempts affordable housing developments from water utility expansion charges and related water utility building requirements.
  • Developers are offered density bonus for housing developments that include affordable units.
  • Relaxed code requirements allow accessory units and other alterations to encourage greater affordable housing options.
  • Modified site development and zoning requirements (such as reduced lot sizes) are increasing lot coverage to promote affordable housing
  • Local leaders now provide increased opportunities for the use of HUD-Code (manufactured homes).

White Plains, New York

White Plains is an older close-in suburban city near New York City. Its housing stock covers of range of income groups ranging from lower to upper income homes. Faced with a declining downtown, the city established an economic development strategy that focused on downtown revitalization and a mix of housing affordable to families of various income levels. Through citywide and targeted neighborhood action, White Plains integrated regulatory reform into a larger economic development strategy.

Since 2001, the city's institutional and regulatory reforms have resulted in 153 homes, including 48 low-income units, 139 workforce units and nine units of city defined "below middle-income" housing. In addition, 51 workforce units are now under development. This represents 10 percent of all new housing approved within the city. Most notably, 112 of these units are the direct result of regulatory reform without any additional subsidy.

  • White Plains established a strong public /private partnership to support major regulatory reform.
  • The city enacted a comprehensive reform of its zoning ordinance with height and density incentives available for "workforce" and "below middle-income" housing.
  • City planners doubled allowable densities for low-income housing in targeted neighborhoods.
  • Local officials created a coordinated review process for housing development. Chaired by Mayor's Office, all city departments conduct expedited review of proposed developments as a team.
  • The city modified building code to reduce costs.


Content Archived: May 04, 2010