Obstacles to New Housing Development

For many proposed new housing projects, a litany of circumstances and “obstructionism” can hamper potential projects from ever coming to fruition. Given the nation’s housing crisis and growing numbers of homeless persons, most individuals on some level will acknowledge the need for expanded housing yet a litany of factors can stand in the way of the timely development of new homes.

Among the first questions that often comes to mind is: who actually benefits from new housing developments? On the surface, the answer may appear easily transparent – new homebuyers, local businesses, new arrivals to the area, schools, labor, and, of course, developers. A closer examination reveals there are several interest groups, intentionally or not, which may stand in the way of progress. Consider the following:

Community neighbors

Those living in close proximity to new developments are oftentimes weary of changing the complexity of the neighborhood. They worry about depressed property values, increases in their own rent or mortgages, being overshadowed by high-rise complexes, increases in traffic and congestion, higher crime rates and even the desire to retain the inherent “character” of the neighborhood.


For those bent on slowing down progress, there are many available tools in the arsenal to delay progress: land use laws, labor codes, union issues, zoning restrictions, environmental concerns, lengthy design reviews, parking constraints, and multi-layered city approval processes which can all stall, stymie or scale back new housing developments. As a result, the addition of many proposed new housing developments are not keeping pace with population growth and the subsequent need for housing. Cost factors come into play with many lower and even middle income wage earners and seniors on limited incomes being priced out of the market. Whether rallying together or separately, these obstructionist groups have a powerful influence on effectively slowing down affordable housing projects.

Possible solutions

There is no clear-cut resolution, but vigilance is required to continually gage and push through legislation that will address obstructions to new housing development. This includes proposed legislation at the state and federal level to ease zoning and environmental restrictions; funnel more money into affordable housing production and encourage local governments to comply with broader state and federal goals for timely development of new affordable housing projects. While this may sounds like a lot to tackle, by chipping away at various obstacles, progress indeed can be made.


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