Gainesville City Council Acts to End Single-Family Zoning in College Town

The Gainesville City Council Commission voted earlier this month to create zoning reforms to change land in the Florida college town from single-family zoning to multi-family zoning. Single-family zoning is an exclusionary policy that can limit the creation of affordable housing for individuals with the lowest incomes. The city council’s decision would allow the construction of duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes on lots that are currently reserved for single-family homes. The move could signal a shift towards the end of single-family zoning in other areas of the state, as well as in other states.

The effort was led mainly by city staff and elected officials, but local advocacy groups like Gainesville YIMBY also supported the zoning change. Likewise, the Florida Housing Coalition had been pushing for zoning reform since at least 2020, when the organization recommended the zoning change to the City Commission in its 2020 Housing Action Plan.

Though the decision is considered a major win by housing advocates, some residents of Gainesville were hesitant about zoning reform, believing that it will lead to gentrification in their neighborhoods. Public comment and deliberation went on for seven hours, and it was clear that the city’s residents were not fully in support of the change. The lack of affordable housing supply is already leading to gentrification and displacement in Black and brown communities through skyrocketing rents and home prices. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe does not want Gainesville residents to be displaced but acknowledges that without the building of new homes, wealthier people and families will take advantage of the most desirable neighborhoods. Yet while it may be difficult to predict the full impact of the decision, the reform will without a doubt create new housing supply in Gainesville. Meanwhile, creating housing with greater density – including duplexes, triplexes, and townhouses – will provide lower-income families relying on federal subsidies with better access to affordable housing.

Florida Housing Coalition Legal Director Kody Glazer commended the decision. “We hope Gainesville’s efforts to increase housing options will be a model for the rest of the state as cities and counties tackle local barriers to increasing the supply of affordable housing,” said Glazer. “Zoning reform on its own will not solve the affordability crisis, but steps to encourage missing middle housing, such as small-scale, rental can be very helpful. Much of the opposition to this zoning reform in Gainesville was due to concerns about student housing, which is unlikely to be such a hot button issue outside of university towns.”

For further questions about the reform, feel free to contact Ashon Nesbitt, chief programs office with the Florida Housing Coalition, at [email protected].