In November 2019, we hosted 120 or so key stakeholders in the housing industry for a deep dive event focused on driving attainability for middle income households – those who make roughly $50K-$125K per year.

In table-based think tanks of six to eight people, we addressed 15 questions related to PLACE, PRODUCT and PRODUCTION (or process) – the three big buckets that need to be tackled to make homes more attainable without sacrificing the quality of our homes and our lives.

Here’s a question from the PLACE segment of our agenda.

If the regulatory burden is up to 30% of housing costs, how can we better work with local, state and national government to reduce this burden?

We asked 15 thought leaders, including regional and national builders; experts in innovation, architecture, marketing, and investment; manufacturers and a market analyst.

Here are some key takeaways.

1: Incentivize

Give to get. We heard a story about a builder who incentivized municipalities, where they are already building, to brainstorm and come up with ways to reduce the regulatory burden. The end in mind was that the builder could then offer more attainable housing options in those communities.

On another front, perhaps we can get a municipality to agree to do this: If an entity has attainable housing as part of its development, then all of its ‘stuff’ goes to the front of the line. That’s a nonmonetary incentive that could drive change.

2: Repurpose

There’s a huge opportunity that exists by just repurposing existing construction. How can we repurpose what’s already there (i.e. empty commercial buildings, shopping malls, etc.) to really drive attainable housing? Some of the regulatory burden isn’t there for that type of construction.

3: Educate

It’s likely that many people in government aren’t aware that, in some municipalities, 30% of the cost of a house is actually regulatory burden. Is there a way to talk about this issue with numbers that are local? It would be great to have a template to use when you went to a municipality to show them the real costs to build in their town.

4: Pitch

The old adage holds true: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. How do you approach a municipality to gauge if they are even interested in having attainable housing in their area? Should you just ask directly? If they don’t want it, they ought to come out and let everybody know that they’re not interested. But if the answer is yes, then you can have a conversation. We need to know best practices surrounding this engagement.