Pre-Approved Building Plans: The Challenge & Response

Anthony Harris
Anthony Harris
  • Updated

The challenge

With the regulations we have in place today, we have locked our neighborhoods into stasis. 

When our current housing stock can’t easily evolve because of zoning codes or other regulations, there's no real incentive or mechanism to improve what’s already here.

Instead, many communities respond by building large subdivisions on the edge of town. Homes in these developments may be out of reach for a first-time homebuyer or too much space for a single person without a family. Plus, these large-leap, all-at-once developments require new pipes, roads, and other infrastructure, creating unknown long-term fiscal liabilities. 

When it comes to housing, many cities think big and: 

  • Seek state and federal grants.
  • Develop codes and procedures for large-scale neighborhood developments. 
  • Attempt to lure builders from other places with subsidies.

To build a strong town, we need to think on a smaller scale. 

Instead of large leaps, we need small steps. Instead of all-at-once development, we need incremental growth built by many hands. 


The Response: Pre-approved Building Plans

Our neighborhoods are works in progress and are meant to mature over time. As our neighborhoods grow slowly in response to the needs of the people who live there, our city becomes the best version of itself. 

Several cities—like South Bend, Indiana, and Groveland, Florida—have recognized the need to shift away from large developments and focus on the neighborhoods they already have. 

These cities discovered they could tap into the housing potential within existing neighborhoods if they developed pre-approved home plans to streamline the building process and encourage infill developments within existing neighborhoods.

In addition to making the smallest increment of development possible, these pre-approved building plans:

  • Lower the bar to entry for those who want to build a home within an existing neighborhood.
  • Introduce traditional building and missing-middle housing types.
  • Streamline the approval process to reduce municipal involvement so people can start building faster.
  • Encourage development in the community and allow the private sector to lead with investment.
  • Direct the vision for the community in both unit types and architectural style.
  • Support a local ecosystem and get money off the sidelines and invested back into the community.

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