Pioneering Affordable Housing Solutions Through Strategic Zoning Reforms and Community Collaboration

North Wales

In a compelling dialogue, with Alex Turock, Assistant Borough Manager and Timothy Konetchy, Senior Community Planner of North Wales Borough, showed the Borough’s unwavering dedication to revamp its zoning regulations takes center stage, underscoring a deliberate focus on safeguarding established neighborhoods and championing housing affordability. The recalibration of zoning is cast as a forward-thinking response to the evolving needs of the community, seamlessly aligning with the principles of naturally occurring affordable housing and the often-overlooked missing middle housing concepts. Timothy underscored the imperative of leveraging the borough's existing conditions to faithfully mirror them in the revised zoning regulations.

Remarkably, the zoning modifications encountered no resistance, as community members astutely grasped the inherent value in preserving the current housing tableau over endorsing large-scale developments. The accentuation of retaining naturally occurring affordable housing and promoting adaptive reuse serves as a testament to the borough's unwavering dedication to sustainable growth.

Regarding new construction, the borough adopts a pragmatic stance, candidly acknowledging the limited opportunities for substantial build-out owing to the fully developed nature of the area. The exploration of possibilities like infill, adaptive reuse, and accessory dwelling units resonates with the overarching goal of upholding a diverse housing stock.

The pivotal role played by the comprehensive plan, finalized in 2018, emerges as a cornerstone in steering the zoning metamorphosis. It meticulously focuses on the preservation of existing neighborhoods, economic development, bolstering walkability, and enhancing park facilities. The borough council's active support throughout the zoning evolution underscores a collaborative and trust-filled relationship with the planning commission.

Offering sage advice to other municipalities grappling with affordable housing challenges, Alex and Timothy underscored the pivotal role of preservation, fact-based storytelling, and robust community engagement. They advocate commencing the journey by grounding discussions in existing conditions and factual realities, ensuring residents comprehend the tangible advantages of proposed zoning alterations. A resounding encouragement is extended to other communities to shed apprehensions about substantive reforms, emphasizing the paramount importance of community engagement and education.

North Wales' approach stands as an inspirational archetype, illustrating how a small borough can proactively confront affordable housing challenges through astute zoning reforms, collaborative community efforts, and an unyielding commitment to preserving the community's existing essence.