HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 06-067
Brian Sullivan
(202) 708-0685
For Release
June 15, 2006

State and local efforts seen as national models for cutting red tape

WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced three local communities and one state agency will be presented HUD's Robert L. Woodson, Jr. Award for reducing burdensome regulations that unnecessarily inflate the cost of housing. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson recognized these state and local efforts as national models in the effort to reducing unnecessary, outdated, and duplicative regulations that put the cost of housing out of reach of police officers, firefighters, teachers, returning veterans, and many other hardworking Americans.

The following communities are the recipients of this year's Woodson Award: Mount Joy, Pennsylvania; Suffolk County, New York; and, San Jose, California. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development was selected for its efforts to reduce regulatory barriers to affordable housing throughout the state (see attached summaries).

"When hard working families can't afford to live in their own communities because of man-made regulations, it's time for some honest soul searching," said Jackson. "These communities are working overtime to remove excessive and burdensome regulations that have long outlived their usefulness and, in the process, they're putting out the welcome mat for the very people anyone would be proud to call 'neighbor.'"

The Robert L. Woodson, Jr. Award is named in memory of HUD's late chief of staff and is designed to recognize state and local governments who aggressively work to reduce regulatory barriers to affordable housing.

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. For more information about this important priority, visit the affordable communities site.

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, and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and For more information about FHA products, please visit




Located in one of the most expensive housing regions in the country, the City of San Jose has long recognized the need for providing affordable housing. By the mid-1990s the City needed 13,000 units of affordable housing to meet the demands of its lower-income citizens. In addition to complex state-mandated land use regulations, the city's numerous development fees and taxes acted to seriously inhibit the production of affordable housing. After struggling to balance the pressing need for more affordable housing with city's other goals and programs, the city took action in 1999 by making affordable housing a priority and setting ambitious goals for the production of affordable housing. Since that time, the city has added 7,500 affordable housing units, and is on track of meeting it's a goal of 10,000 units by December of 2006.

Specific Actions Taken

  • Created Housing Opportunity Studies effort to identify and rezone urban, transit-oriented infill sites suitable for high-density housing, including affordable housing. To date, 520 affordable housing units have been completed as part of this effort.
  • Exempted affordable housing projects from park impact fees and various construction fees, resulting in a $27 million in cost savings for such developments.
  • Joined with Habitat for Humanity and Youthbuild to produced 580 affordable units on formerly surplus city-owned land.


The affordable housing problems experienced in Mount Joy, a bedroom community of Harrisburg, are very similar to those experienced by many other suburban communities. Zoning restrictions and building specifications prompted a dramatic rise in land and home prices, prohibiting builders from making profits on affordable housing. Recognizing the problem in 2004, municipal officers held a public workshop bringing residents and the development community to the table. The workshop was very successful and participants developed a consensus on a comprehensive development plan for Mount Joy permitting greater density on the available sites.

The first fruits of the plan led a new is a mixed-use development called Florin Hills. Seventy-five out Florin Hills more than 450 new units will be affordable, 18 more than the 57 total units that the old zoning requirements would have allowed. Both Governor Edward Rendell and the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania recognized Mount Joy's achievement as a model for meeting the affordable housing needs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Specific Actions Taken

  • Hosted a two-night public workshop that brought together all parties resulting in a comprehensive plan offering incentives to both developers and the Borough of Mount Joy. Due to the inclusive nature of this workshop, the resulting plan had no opposition upon its implementation.
  • The Borough amended, waived, or otherwise revised 52 development and zoning regulations that were barriers to the development of affordable housing units.
  • Mount Joy provided a Workforce Housing Density Bonus that created a powerful incentive for builders to build one additional home per acre if at least 10 percent of new homes are affordable.
  • Borough planners approved Florin Hills, a new mixed-use development characterized by affordable and market rate housing, access to public transit, and high-density housing. Changes in density requirements and zoning laws allowed this to go from a 57-unit development to one with more than 450 units.


Over the past decade, Suffolk County has become one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. Like many communities on Long Island, median home prices are at least $400,000 over the national average, forcing many young families to leave the communities where they were raised. To prevent further flight that threaten the County's future economic health, the newly elected county executive took several actions in 2004 to identify and remove regulatory barriers to affordable housing development in the county. With substantial public pressure to fix the problem, the county created two major initiatives to address the issue - the Workforce Housing Commission and the Red Tape Reduction Plan. Because the authority to make housing and land decisions resides with the 42 local governments in the county, the county government served in the roles of convener/coordinator, educator, expediter, and cajoler to streamline the regulatory review processes involved in housing development approvals. The Workforce Housing Development Commission made recommendations for regulatory barrier reduction, and the Red Tape Reduction Plan worked to streamline county reviews of water and sewage permits. These efforts have substantially impacted the complex nature of regulatory issues at the county level leading to 31 new applications for affordable communities and 300 new affordable units during its first year of implementation.

Specific Actions Taken

  • Established the Workforce Housing Commission bringing individual townships and the private sector together to address this issue. This committee recommended several streamlining measures that have been implemented at the county and local governmental levels. Many of the measures give priority to affordable housing developments.
  • Established the Red Tape Reduction Plan that has cut permitting time in half and has significantly streamlined efficiency.
  • Implemented 'one-stop' permitting process has been reduced review periods from 16 to 4 weeks.
  • Authorized 'fast track' permitting for developments containing at least 20 percent affordable housing proposals cutting the review period from four weeks to just one.
  • Appointed one representative per town to shepherd affordable housing developments through town processes.


Since 1970, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a leader in addressing its affordable housing needs in its implementation of its widely known Chapter 40B or 'anti-snob zoning program.' This program allows the state to override local zoning and approve affordable housing developments if local affordable housing goals have not been met. Despite the existence of this program, however, the state has seen a dramatic increase in the price of housing over the past two decades. Housing prices have increased 200 percent over that period and building permits have decreased precipitously.

While the program has resulted in the construction of over 30,000 affordable housing units since its inception, local officials have been critical of 40B approval process, which they believe has resulted in the approval of housing developments that were inappropriate. To address these concerns, the State's Department of Housing and Community Development assembled a state-wide task force to review the program and to make recommendations to improve the way it is administered. These recommendations allowed local governments the opportunity to assure that affordable housing proposals are appropriate, to gave communities new opportunities to meet their affordable housing goals, and provided local governments technical assistance to meet their goals. As a result of the Task Force's recommended changes, 75 new local affordable housing plans have been created since 2003. Between 2002-2005, housing permits have increased 34 percent (17,465 - 23,480), 20 percent of which used Chapter 40B.

Specific Actions Taken

  • Developed a Task Force to reaffirm the need for affordable housing, analyze Chapter 40B to study its effectiveness and appropriateness, and propose possible modifications to the Statute.
  • Created initiatives to provide assistance to communities experiencing problems with the technical and public relations aspects of developing affordable housing.
  • Streamlined and consolidated the planning process, allowing developers and municipalities to work together.
  • Developed an online "Planning and Housing Development Toolkit" offering guidance and resources for local communities leaders to utilize in creating affordable housing plans.
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