Federal money intended for zoning reformers ends up in NIMBY clutches

By Christian Britschgi | Reason

The White House made a big splash in May 2022 when it announced that its Housing Supply Action plan would use competitive transportation grant programs to reward jurisdictions that remove regulatory barriers to new housing construction.

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted in November 2021, also dramatically boosted funding for these grant programs—giving the feds a lot more carrots with which to reward governments for removing red tape on new development.

But as the grant awards from these retooled transportation grant programs trickle out, there’s little evidence the money is going to reformist jurisdictions.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the recipients of $1.5 billion in grants from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program—one of five grant programs the administration said would be used to encourage zoning reforms.

Of the 26 INFRA grant awards this cycle, 19 are going to state transportation departments or port authorities that don’t set zoning regulations or issue residential building permits. These bureaucracies can’t be incentivized to change regulations they don’t have any power over in the first place.

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