From homelessness and housing to big tech and budgets, the forces shaping urbanism in the coming year.
Beginning with a partial federal government shutdown, 2019 has started with a potent reminder of dysfunction at the national level. The current budget brinkmanship only reinforces the importance of innovative local government to address pressing issues.
Last year, pundits from Richard Florida to Deborah and James Fallows talked about the power of localism, how local governments—from small towns to superstar cities—represent innovation, collaboration, and progress. At the same time mayors and local leaders are trying and testing new ideas, urban growth, especially when it comes to inequality, has created challenges and setbacks for growing cities.
Here are 10 big issues expected to play oversized roles in shaping the story of cities in 2019.
The elimination of single-family zoning and parking minimums
The recent decision by Minneapolis leadership to effectively banish single-family zoning citywide has been one of the more consequential, and newsworthy, zoning decisions in decades. According to proponents, the Minneapolis 2040 plan will help increase density, reduce carbon emissions, and improve equity.
The proposal also moved the goalposts in a way that few recent urban planning decisions have. In the wake of the plan’s passage, a Bloomberg op-ed called single-family zoning, which still applies to the majority of U.S. neighborhoods, an “urban dinosaur.” Scores of YIMBYs and local politicians have asked, “why not us, too?” Along with the push to eliminate parking minimums—San Francisco just voted to eliminate them for all new developments—Minneapolis 2040 reinvigorated the debate around reforming and changing zoning laws.
What to watch: Perhaps the most extensive such proposal on the table is Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek’s plan to upzone the entire state, mandating that every town with a population over 10,000 allow four units on parcels currently zoned for single-family homes.