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How Can Digitalization Improve Housing Planning and Regulation?

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Planning + Development

How Can Digitalization Improve Housing Planning and Regulation?

Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies unpacks new research on the role of digitalization in housing development

September 11, 2023
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Digitalization has the potential to revolutionize housing planning, regulation, and equity, according to several researchers at Harvard’s symposium on housing and digitalization. From data-driven planning for housing affordability to digitalization tools for equity in urban development, proposed solutions appear in several new research papers from housing experts seeking more efficient methods of planning, reviewing, and regulating housing development, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reports. 

Researchers acknowledge the importance of stakeholder engagement, data appropriateness, analysis techniques, and effective communication in introducing new digitalization tools, but actually implementing them is the real challenge. 

The fact that each of the papers, in its own way, focuses in part on problems with local zoning codes, highlights the need for a National Zoning Atlas, contends Sara Bronin in her commentary on the papers. A professor at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Bronin helped develop the Connecticut Zoning Atlas and also chairs the US Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In her commentary, she notes that, historically, we haven’t had good tools to measure and compare the restrictiveness the 30,000+ local zoning codes in the US. However, a few months after the symposium was held, a National Zoning Atlas initiative was launched and, a little more than a year later, zoning atlas projects are underway in 30 states and 60 organizations have become part of the National Zoning Atlas research collaborative.

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