HIP Tool: Flexible Single Family Development Regulations

Flexible single family development regulations refer to an array of strategies that permit lot size, setbacks, sidewalks, street widths, height and other development standards to vary from what is otherwise prescribed by the zoning code. Flexible standards allow for denser and more diverse development and more economical use of available land. The cost savings realized from lower land, infrastructure and other development outlays can translate into lower per-unit housing costs.


Adjusting development regulations to permit varied setbacks, reduced street width and varied building height measurements in certain zones may reduce the costs of development and provide more diverse housing options. Flexible standards can be implemented through planned unit development (PUD) ordinances, overlay zones, or other amendments to development standards.

Setbacks. Narrower setbacks may increase the number of lots available for development and reduce infrastructure costs for developers. Flexible setback requirements can also help protect natural resources by allowing homes to be built in clusters, on smaller lots or closer than zoning permits (see also lot size averaging). Adjustments to front yard setback requirements can reduce the cost of driveways and utility lines. Reducing required side yard setbacks can save additional land costs and allow more efficient infrastructure servicing. These cost savings to developers can, in turn, be passed on to homebuyers or renters.

Transportation Infrastructure. Street design and construction standards can account for significant development costs, so some jurisdictions have sought to reduce the cost of housing by revising their street development standards. Narrower street widths can decrease construction, maintenance and land costs. Similarly, parking reductions or grouped parking can also cut down development costs.

To maintain community character, local jurisdictions may retain some standards for curbs, planting strips, and sidewalks, but reduce pavement widths of travel lanes, allow sidewalks on one side, allow rolled curbs instead of vertical curbs, and reduce overall right-of-way widths.

Height Measurement. Some jurisdictions measure building height to the mid-point of a pitched roof rather than to the top of the roof in order to encourage varied roof forms. This may also accommodate additional living space.

Tool Profile

Focus Areas

  • Expensive Housing Markets
  • Innovative Single Family Techniques

Project Types

  • Single Family
  • Ownership
  • Market Rate

Affordability Level

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

Housing Goal

  • Diversity