Focus Forward

By Brian Murphy

On this day of transition in our nation, a day of mixed emotions about where we are and where we’re headed, we at Manypenny Murphy Architecture would like to offer a thought.  We’re going to focus on the progress that’s been made and our ambition to keep working hard despite apparent challenges, because great possibilities still lie ahead.

On that note, I wanted to share this little gem of a document, one of our favorites of the many great things with which the Obama administration has equipped us for making progress: the Housing Development Toolkit.  

What, you haven’t heard of this?  Well check it out; it’s a toolkit that outlines strategies that state and local governments have implemented to promote the development of healthy, affordable, high-opportunity housing markets to “expand options and opportunities for hardworking families.”

What’s particularly interesting is that the premise and goals of this document as stated in the Executive Summary seem to straddle the political aisle.  It speaks to issues that appeal to both ideologies, like fueling the national economy by connecting workers to opportunities.  It focuses on areas of operation at the local level to achieve this.

At the very heart of the matter it cites land use regulation, zoning ordinances, permitting and approval of development projects as the barriers to remedying a national housing crisis and ultimately hindering GDP growth by keeping our workforce from locating in the most productive regions.  As a reaction in Slate put it, it tries to address the "NIMBY nonsense" that often trips projects up.

We’re still digesting this treatise and trying to relate it to our work, but here are a couple points that certainly resonate in this market.

It advocates for streamlining and shortening the permitting process and timeline.  This process is a cost factor that sometimes halts a good project before it gets started.

The Toolkit calls for elimination of off-street parking requirements, which although can be a market amenity also consume valuable space for cars that could otherwise be dedicated to people.

It also promotes the allowance of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU).  The State of New Hampshire passed legislation for this in 2016, but local governments are responsible for their own interpretation.  (We started looking in our own backyard on this one  - looks ready, right?)

There are some flaws in there, I’m sure.  We’re looking forward to spending more time with this in 2017 and would love to engage with people in our community – no matter what your angle or opinion – and get creative with the possibilities.