HIP Tool: Design Guidelines

Design guidelines help ensure that new development is aesthetically and functionally compatible with the current or desired character of a neighborhood or community. Design guidelines are criteria that specify the form of new development. They can address a range of elements, such as site layout, scale, architectural features, circulation and parking configuration, open space, landscaping, and related topics. Balanced guidelines should promote good design without imposing prohibitively costly requirements on new developments. They can serve to facilitate community acceptance of affordable housing projects or increased densities.


What issues do design guidelines address?

Design guidelines represent community aspirations for future development. They can play a significant role in winning community support for affordable and more dense or diverse housing. The process of creating design guidelines serves to inform the community about housing issues, particularly addressing the myths that affordable or new forms of housing are unattractive and not compatible with the neighborhood. Developing design guidelines should be a public process that offers citizens an active role in shaping their environment.

Where are design guidelines most applicable?

Design guidelines can be implemented by any jurisdiction. They are most applicable to communities where affordable housing or innovative development is underway or being considered. Because they are particularly helpful in mitigating concerns about unsightly or disconnected development, design guidelines are helpful in communities where resistance to new development is strong.

Tool Profile

Focus Areas

  • Urban Centers
  • Transit Oriented Development
  • Expensive Housing Markets
  • Innovative Single Family Techniques
  • Citizen Education & Outreach

Project Types

  • Single Family
  • Multifamily
  • Ownership
  • Rental
  • Market Rate
  • Subsidized

Affordability Level

  • 80% to 120% AMI
  • Less than 80% AMI

Housing Goal

  • Affordability
  • Diversity