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Increased Housing Density Being Questioned Due to COVID-19

Analysis from Up For Growth, says while the recent outbreak of COVID-19 may be making people more skeptical regarding the push for denser housing, concerns may be misguided. 

“This contagion is not about whether you live in a densely populated area or a less densely populated area; it's about whether you have a good public health response to a pandemic, and Hong Kong and Singapore had a fantastic response,” said California Sen. Scott Wiener in a Politico article. 

Alan Durning, Executive Director of Seattle’s Sightline Institute, said living close to people doesn’t mean “living within six feet of them.” 

“The world’s best coronavirus fighters so far are all Asian democracies where cities are denser than almost any place in North America: Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei, for example,” he said. 

An article by Mission Local found that during San Francisco’s fourth week of sheltering-in-place, its rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases is just half the rate of California while being the nation’s second-most densely populated city in the country. 

Dr. Nicholas Jewell, professor of biostatistics at the University of California—Berkley, said the average daily growth between March 25 and April 1 was 10% for San Francisco and 18% for California. 

Several cities and states over the past year have enacted laws limiting, or even eliminating, the amount of zoning for single-family housing. 

Washington was the latest state to limit single-family zoning, as Senate Bill 6536 would put into place a statewide ban on any zoning that restricts the construction of multi-family housing in cities with a population of more than 15,000. 

Single-family zoning makes up 70% of Seattle’s zoning. 

SB 6536 wouldn’t require cities to build multi-family housing, but it would allow duplexes, triplexes, apartment buildings, and increased development in areas previously limited to single-family zoning. 

Fellow Pacific Northwest state Oregon was the first state to enact laws promoting higher density with House Bill 2001. The legislation, however, was the subject of opposition at the end of 2019. 

"People are absolutely outraged," said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who is the Portland City Council's liaison to the League of Oregon Cities. "There were multiple people saying it needs to be repealed."

House Bill 2001 went into effect on August 8, 2019, and mandates that cities with a population of more than or equal to 25,000 must allow high-density zoning on development’s previously reserved for single-family housing. 

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.
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