But far too few homes are being built. The reason? Land use regulations limit what types of—and how much—new housing can be built, significantly driving up the cost of new construction. As a result, building new housing is more expensive and time-consuming than it should be.

The key: giving owners freedom to use their property, which unleashes private enterprise to create more housing. We need to get government out of the way, not more government mandates. We need freedom in land use.

PLF is leading the charge to free property owners and builders from government barriers to housing production in courts and legislatures.

Home equity theft

Our Current Focus: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

Also known as in-law suites or “granny flats,” ADUs are small, separate apartments that homeowners create on their property. They are typically less expensive than surrounding housing and are perfect for adult children or elderly relatives who want to stay near their families. They don’t change the surrounding neighborhood, and are thus a great way to slowly add to the existing housing stock.

Download Model Ordinance

Accessory Dwelling Units are overregulated or banned in most cities

  • In most cities, homeowners cannot build another unit on their property if the neighborhood is zoned for single-family housing. And most land in major cities is zoned this way.
  • Legalizing ADUs is a small step to creating more housing, empowering property owners to make the most from their investment and add lower-cost housing to the market.
  • PLF’s model ordinance would ensure ADU permit approval process is certain, speedy, and low cost.
Photo Credit: moss-design.com

California leads the way, but some localities resist

  • California implemented a state law at the beginning of 2020 that guaranteed the right to build ADU, as long as it means certain simple and pre-published criteria. This takes the uncertainty out of the permitting process.
  • But some local governments are resisting the state mandate. ADU applications still take too long to process in San Diego and Riverside Counties. Cities like San Marino and Malibu are rejecting permits for irrational reasons.

Read the Report


Orange County Register: Much ADU about nothing

There are only three bad things about Accessory Dwelling Units. The first two are (1) the name, and (2) the acronym. Why does every good normal thing have to be given an anodyne cover name when it gets discussed in public policy?

Brookings: Reforming land use regulations

By Edward Glaeser: Arguably, land use controls have a more widespread impact on the lives of ordinary Americans than any other regulation. These controls, typically imposed by localities, make housing more expensive and restrict the growth of America’s most successful metropolitan areas.

The Mercatus Center: Land Use Without Zoning

The conversation about zoning has meandered its way through issues ranging from housing affordability to economic growth to segregation, expanding in the process from a public policy backwater to one of the most discussed policy issues of the day.

January 08, 2021

Real Estate Issues: Seattle Housing: A Case Study in Crisis Creation

Kelly Lyles is a member of a dying breed: the mom-and-pop Seattle landlord. Her kind has become the target of an increasingly radical city council that has slammed the rental housing industry with a barrage of new-fangled policies over the last five years that protect tenants at all costs, including the cost of landlord property ...

April 07, 2020

The Government-Created Housing Shortage

The American spirit is synonymous with a can-do attitude—we are builders, creators, and innovators. The remarkable construction of New York's legendary Empire State Building symbolizes that spirit: from start to finish, the completion of this American landmark took a single year. But that spirit now seems diminished. Many U.S. cities face a housi ...

October 17, 2019

Seattle is improving some housing policies, but more need to change

For decades, cities have slogged through a depressing trend: limited housing options have forced rents higher than ever. A New Yorker even founded a political party to argue that "Rent Is Too Damn High." While some advocates have pushed policies that actually make the affordable housing issue worse (like rent control, and affordable housing "fees" ...

July 12, 2019

The destructive power of rent control

Bomb damage or rent control? That was the caption under this picture in a 1981 book about rent control across the world. Looking at the photo, it’s impossible to tell the difference. Almost 40 years later, the story hasn't changed: outside of wars and natural disasters, rent control is the single most effective destroyer of ...

May 06, 2019

Make housing legal again: Sword&Scales spring 2019

Even the word "home" is special. Hearing it immediately brings warm memories and exciting aspirations to our mind's eye. The meaning of home is changing though. Well-intentioned but incompetent government housing policies are making home ownership too expensive and too risky for many Americans. This is the new normal for the American Dream. "Make h ...

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