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UDO Multiplex Amendment And What It Means Moving Forward

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition. I'm your host, Bob Zaltsberg and today have a special guest host with me, city reporter Ethan Burks, who has been covering this issue that we're going to be talking about today. And that issue is the Unified Development Ordinance. We're going to be talking about its plex amendments here on Noon Edition. We have four guests joining us on the program today, we have Jackie Scanlan, who's the city's development services manager, Dave Rollo, Bloomington City Council District four, Matt Flaherty, Lemington City Council at large, and Marc Cornett, who's an architect and an Urbanist who has been a vocal participant, I would say in the conversations about this issue. You can follow us on Twitter at noon edition and you can also send us questions for the show to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. So thank you all for being here. And Ethan's great to have you on as co-host today. I want to start the conversation with Jackie Scanlan to just give us an overview of of what the city council has done. So what's now allowed that wasn't allowed before. 

>>JACKIE SCANLAN: Right. Thank you. So this discussion, I think so correct me if I'm wrong, is focused on the plex changes to the ordinance. We made a number of other changes, over one hundred corrections and things like that to the code during this process. But I think we're here to mostly talk about the plexes. So I will describe what those changes are. The council approved a changing tri plexes from permitted to conditional in the R 4 and four plexes, also be conditional in the R four and those would require specific standards. So the R are four is one of our new zoning districts and then duplexes would be permitted in that district as well also with use specific standards. In the wider primarily single family residential areas and the one through our three zoning districts, duplexes were approved as conditional in that area, again with us e specific standards related to development characteristics on the site, as well as a one hundred and fifty foot separation of those that are approved for two years and a total citywide cap of 15. We've seen that some information is indicating a cap for neighborhood, but it's actually just 15 for the entire area, for those three districts. So that is what was approved by council. And it will go back to plan commission on June 14th for ratification. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I just want to ask you for a little clarification. Now there was a zoning map that had - didn't have R4 on it for a while. Is that correct? I mean, there was some change - there were some changes made to the zoning map that maybe, well, just limited the places where these three plexes and four plexes could go. Is that is that right? 

>>JACKIE SCANLAN: No. So when we did the overhaul, the repeal and replace update of the code, we also did what's called a conversion map and council approved a map that all it did was change the names of the districts because we were having new titles. So that was obviously in only for districts that already existed on the map. So the map didn't change at all. Just the names of the districts changed. The lines didn't change in the areas where those districts were located. And because R four is not was not previously in the code, it's not on that map. It was never on the map. But we have not released we did not do an updated map without our for the map that council just approved within this last month is is the update that comes along with the overhaul and final ending of the process of the comprehensive plan and UDO update. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, thanks for that clarification. And you are absolutely right. We're going to be talking about plexes today primarily. So all right. I want to ask Matt Flaherty. Matt, why is this a good thing? You know what we've done here and the changes that have been made? You've been a strong supporter of it. So what's this going to do for the community that's going to bring benefit? 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: Sure, thanks for having me on today and thanks, Miss Scanlan, for the overview. I think we're probably most specifically talking about duplexes being reallowed in most are all residential districts in town, which I think is pretty strongly supported by our comprehensive plan, as well as the climate action plan that the council recently accepted unanimously. So duplexes are kind of the smallest form of what's sometimes called missing middle housing, which the comprehensive plan calls out and describes as duplexes, triplex as courtyard apartments, townhomes, live and work units. These types of of homes, as the plan correctly notes, often offer more affordable and sustainable housing options for the diverse needs of Bloomington, which is why they're an important part historically of Bloomington housing and in most capital cities, housing eco-systems. Over the last number of decades, if not half a century or more, in most cities, these these types of housing forms have largely disappeared so that we mostly see large, you know, 50, 100 unit or more multifamily units or detached single family homes. And that's all. So that's why it's sometimes called missing middle. Again, duplexes are kind of the most incremental and smallest step forward on the missing middle housing front. And I think they play an important need for the housing. The housing needs a terribly important role for the housing needs of Bloomington. And I think it's worth noting that with the restrictions and use specific standards and buffer and total number caps, some of the things that scantly mentioned, I think, where the council landed and the ordinance we passed is a very, very incremental step and cautious step forward on this front, which I think is reflective of some of the diverse views among community members and among council members and represents very much kind of the middle ground or compromise. I think it's also important to note that we agree on a whole lot more than we disagree in this community on the housing front and on the council, and that I think we all have shared values of equity and sustainability, housing affordability and inclusion, but that even with those shared values, we can have principled and civil policy disagreements about how best to achieve those goals. And I think that's what we saw here. And then just a final note, that, of course, duplexes and small scale attached housing, missing middle housing is just one part of a whole suite of policy tools that help move us towards our communities housing goals. And I hope that we can maybe discuss some of those other tools a little bit today as well. Thanks. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, absolutely. We can go whatever direction you guys want to go. So I want to ask Dave Rollo. David, you proposed your own - Susan Stamberg proposed several amendments. A couple of them, I think passed, but a majority of them did not pass. So what's your sort of overview or your final thoughts about what the council has gone forward with? 

>>DAVE ROLLO: Yes, thanks, Bob. Well, suffice to say, I'm diametrically opposed in terms of my view to my colleague, Councilman Flaherty. I think there are two aspects of my objection. One was process and the other is outcome with regard to process. I don't think we should have taken up such a profound change in zoning affecting the entire community during a time of a pandemic. It was it prevented gatherings, obviously, and it required virtual zoo meetings. And I see this as a non-inclusive undemocratic process. And that was really an objection brought by members of the community from multiple neighborhoods that wanted a pause on this process. But we went ahead and I see, as I said, the outcome is a monumental change in zoning. That is, it's a sweeping act of deregulation. Essentially, what we eliminated what we did was that we eliminated single family zoning in all of Bloomington. And I might add that this will apply to the annexed areas that will consider annexing later in the summer. It turns back the clock in a sentence prior to the Tommy Ellison administration in the 80s and 90s, which were efforts made to moderate the effects of excess rentals in poor neighborhoods and to advocate on occupancy in those neighborhoods and then efforts to prevent overall occupancy. So what this does essentially is it incentivizes conversion of single family homes to duplexes, to rentals. I would say because they to use are permitted if one lives and the the residence and there's an enormous economic incentive to do this. So we consider Samberg and I work to try to moderate this, to put guardrails on, as you said earlier. And the First Amendment, which failed, would have removed the duplex duplexes from R one or R two and R three. The Second Amendment, which was, I think, sponsored by council member Demont Smith and council member Smith's applied conditional use, which is incrementally better than permitted, which is what drive was derived from the planning commission. As Miss Scanlan said the Amendment 3 that Susan Stamberg and I authored was to limit the number of duplexes in R one, R two and R three to 15 per year with 150 foot buffer for two years. And then Amendment four was a was an affordable housing amendment, which would have essentially allowed a limit of two bedrooms per unit in the duplex with additional bedrooms requiring income eligibility. That amendment failed and then the Final Amendment was failed as well. And that was restoring code that was formally present in the UDO for the BCA to consider adverse impacts and traffic congestion. So that's an overview of the process that we engaged a couple of weeks ago. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right, well, I want to ask Marc Cornet because you participated in the process. And if you could give me your take on, you know, how your input was received, just the process in general and you know where where you're going to go from here and in trying to get your voice heard. 

>>MARC CORNETT: Hi, thanks for having me on today, Marc Cornett. And I appreciate the opportunity to speak today. I echo Dave Rollo, councilman Rollo's position on process. And I think maybe this shows my age. I'm an old timer, but I like to see the people I'm talking to. I like to be able to have a back and forth dialogue and close the close the loops. And we miss that. And this was a profound moment in the future of not only zoning policy, but the future of Bloomington in terms of its housing options and opportunities. And we missed a great opportunity to have face to face dialogue. And advocates of the Zoome process will say more people participated. But I'm looking for quality of participation when I'm - whether I'm leading a workshop to talk about neighborhood planning opportunities or just participating as a member of the public. And I think it was a missed opportunity. And I'll follow up by saying that, you know, we had some chances here to say I'm going to throw in the hospital site, not directly answering the question, but throwing the hospital site in forms of a discussion about what we could have worked on in the interim to develop a really active strategy for moving the housing dilemma forward in a positive way. We could have tried out all of the missing middle housing options. That term gets thrown around pretty loosely in these conversations. And we chose not to take those things up. And it's disappointing. And where do we go from here? I'm going to be active in talking about how to make the ADU, the accessory dwelling unit process as transparent and easy to understand as possible, working with local banks to try and advocate for encouraging homeowners with home equity to pursue that option for increasing density in the core neighborhoods. I think that's really the road forward with what we have to work with right now. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. My guest host or my guest host co-host today is Ethan Burks. And Ethan has been covering this issue. And I'm going to ask him to weigh in now with his first question to start hopefully a robust conversation about about where we're going from here. 

>>ETHAN BURKS: Thanks, Bob. My first question is to Jackie Scanlan, and we were talking about how initially it was between permitted use and conditional use for how duplexes would be implemented into zoning. Districts are one hour to an hour three. Jackie, can you dive in and give us a little bit more detail about what conditional use means? 

>>JACKIE SCANLAN: Sure, thanks, Ethan. Yes, so I'll clarify that the proposal put forward by the administration in the Planning Transportation Department proposed that the duplexes be conditional in the hour one or two, an hour three. And they also - we also included the one hundred and fifty foot separation for two years that was later than taken up again by council members Rollo and Sanford. And the reason that we proposed it as conditional was because of what we heard from the community, that people were worried and we, as we did with the accessory dwelling units in the conversations in twenty seventeen. If you go back and look at the minutes, it's a lot of the same rhetoric and concern about primarily the historic neighborhoods or those immediately adjacent to town. And what we found with the ADUs and what we think we'll find with the plexes is that including the process as conditional from the beginning, will provide an extra layer of review and extra time and opportunity for more people to be involved. When something is conditional versus permitted, it has to be approved by either the Board of Zoning Appeals or the hearing officer. In this case, it will have to be the Board of zoning appeals. That was included in the amendment put forward by council member Piemonte Smith and council member Sims. And so basically, if you would like to do a duplex, you will have to meet the specific standards listed in the code, as well as be able to show the Board of Zoning Appeals that you meet the 10 criteria in the code related to conditional uses. And so those are included in the code in order that uses that are very likely compatible in areas but could possibly have unintended consequences if they were above a certain scale. For example, those types of uses are conditional so that the zoning appeals can look and see if there are likely detrimental effects from that use because of unique situations on where it's asking to be located so permitted they wouldn't have to do that. They would apply. And if they met all of these specific standards and development standards for the zoning districts, then they could apply for a building permit and go through that process. And, of course, within a historic district, also go to the Historic Preservation Commission. And that is still in place as well for the conditional use. So conditional use adds another layer. That is why some people don't like it and tried to advocate against it. But we thought in proposing it that way and then having it end up back at that back at conditional use at the end, that that is a good way to slowly kind of roll out this very incremental change. A 15 max in the entire city, if we were entirely built out, is point one percent of the available parcels. It's just an option that we'd like to put in. And we think conditional use helps kind of make that be a little bit more visible for the neighbors as these come forward. 

>>ETHAN BURKS: I want to give Dave a chance to jump in here and talk about that. Dave, the word compromise was thrown a lot throughout the council's process of passing this new iteration of the Udoh. And with conditional use now being the measure for duplexes. Is it fair to say that there was compromise in making them conditional that they have to go in front of the BZA and that the neighborhoods had to be notified? And then also the buffers, the 150 foot buffer between lots and then the 15 per year cap. What is it fair to say that there was some compromise and all of this? 

>>DAVE ROLLO: Well, a compromise means meeting at the middle. It certainly wasn't that. So optically there was an effort to use the term compromise. I didn't - I don't view it that way. I think that this is a monumental change and these are very, very modest restrictions. But for that, I'm grateful. I would like to say that the BCA will follow the permitted use standards they're obligated to. Petitions are not denied or very rarely. And this is why you describe it as just incrementally better. The outcome is invariably the setting in the process. So, yes, it's better than it was coming out of the planning commission, to be sure. But this is a very profound change and it affects every every home in Bloomington at this point unless unless you have a covenant. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Now for our phone numbers, again, are not our phone numbers, but our email address, so you can send us your questions. I know we're going to have a lot of questions today on this topic, news at Indiana Public Media dot org And you can also follow us on Twitter at noon edition. Ethan. 

>>ETHAN BURKS: Yeah, I wanted to circle back to something that Matt had mentioned earlier about how the majority of not only the council but the community as a whole does agree that Bloomington needs more housing options and a different affordability rates with, you know, kind of the high rent prices and those rates. More need to be done below market rate. But I think the major disagreement lies in where that housing will go, where the duplex will be located. And the city's guiding documents on that development is the comprehensive plan, which kind of outlines how development should go, the land use conditions. And so, Matt, I know you and Dave, throughout the conversations in the council meetings have kind of had some differences on what the comprehensive plan says about duplexes. Could you kind of talk a little bit about that? 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: Thanks. Yeah, I think a few things, the comprehensive plan is perhaps better at defining goals than it is specific policies. Policy development happens a bit later. So depending on how you want to read the comprehensive plan, you can kind of read into it what you want. And my view, in the view of the majority of the council and city staff, is that the comprehensive plan on the whole, very much supports allowing small scale attached homes or again, that next increment of missing middle housing in our neighborhoods where they've always existed. You know, I live in an eight plex in Prospect Hill, for instance, I - in a two block walk from my home, there is an 80 you there are several duplexes. There's a triplex. These have always existed within the fabric of our neighborhoods. So the goal is to maintain the current scale and form and in patterns of our existing neighborhoods, then missing middle housing is an important part of that. I've known in my time in Bloomington a lot of people who've lived in these housing types and they're quite often lower income or moderate income adults who work in non-profits who, you know, maybe single adults. We have an increasing number of single person households as the whole country does. So on the density front, too, I guess it's worth noting that our neighborhoods have been decreasing in density steadily over time over the last number of decades. So knowing that allowing more people to live closer to where they live and work is better for supporting transit is better for the environment. Again, this type of housing is important in meeting a lot of the goals that are comprehensive plan, sustainability action plan, transportation plan and climate action plan all call out. I mentioned to the Climate Action Plan, which was most recently developed, specifically calls for allowing these types of housing forms in most residential areas again. So I'm trying to flip through my version of the comprehensive plan here to to to have some specific quotes on hand. But I know there's there's calls for a diversity of housing types. And to me, the diversity of housing needs within neighborhoods. I mentioned earlier how we talk about, you know, the important role that missing middle housing types can play in providing affordability needs and sustainability needs for our community. Here's one, for instance, policy five point one point three, encourage a wide range of housing types to provide a more diverse mix of housing opportunities and housing household income levels, preferably within neighborhoods and multifamily housing developments. So again, I think my view and the view of the majority council was that our plans do support this incremental step forward. I know that council member, ALOW and and Stamberg and some members of the community disagree. And I'm sure he could point to a phrase or two from the comprehensive plan as well as two final points. One is that a lot of this depends on your understanding of the evidence and data around missing middle housing and how these housing types meet needs. So really robust, comprehensive evidence from the American Community Survey and others demonstrate and show that these housing forms support substantially more racially diverse and moderate income populations. And the facts are also quite clear that this is a greater sustainability for this housing type. So - but if you don't - if you reject that, that evidence of that research and what urban planners say about this, then you might have a different view about what the comprehensive plan says or does not because you don't think that, you know, a duplex is a good housing type to help us meet those established goals. So it's kind of a complex picture, I guess, is what I'm trying to say about how we use the comprehensive plan for guidance and how reasonable minds can differ about what that points to. So I'll stop there. Thanks. 

>>ETHAN BURKS: And then, Dave, I'll give you a chance to show your opinion. And I pose the same question to you about your interpretation of the comprehensive plan. 

>>DAVE ROLLO: Thank you, Ethan. I appreciate that. Well, first of all, I do agree with Councilman Flaherty that we need a data driven policy. I just object to an application to a city of ours, which is ours with 50, 40 to 50 percent student driven housing market. And there are no specific instructions within the comprehensive plan. For instance, it reads, existing core neighborhoods should not be the focus of the city's increasing density. Avoid placing these high density complexes forms in single family neighborhoods. The conversion of dwellings to multifamily or commercial uses should be discouraged. So there are multiple cases where it instructs and it actually instructs us where to put the density. That is, that density could be used with a purpose. And the purpose that is directed within the comprehensive plan is to create village senators. So to use this type of density and corridor to neighborhood edges, that then would facilitate this kind of density with a purpose, with a would, with village centers. Think of a hillside in Henderson, for instance, as an example. That would have been the optimal approach regarding the Climate Action Plan. I am absolutely a hundred percent behind it, but I see this as counter to it because what I see is an A student driven market rentals pushing out people who would be occupying single family homes, converting them to rentals, and those families moving out to the periphery where it's going to be much more intensive in terms of carbon output. So I don't see this as climate friendly at all is broad brush approach. So that's what I would say in response. I would also say that it begs a good question about compromise. Jackie Scanlan mentioned the R4 district, which was undescribed. It was a novel zoning area, and then it was finally, you know, manifested in this latest revision. Well, we were originally told that that would be undeveloped areas, not neighborhoods, but it then. And occupied a large number of neighborhoods, then was scaled back and the and of course, the conditional use of complexes within hour to hour one or two or three were proposed simultaneously. So the R4 would have been a good compromise. The R4 would have been, which contains hundreds of single family homes that could be converted. But the R4 would have been a compromise alone without the R one, R two or R three being included in plex development. Thank you. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I have a follow up that came from one of our listeners. I'm going to address it to Matt and then hopefully, Mark, you can also jump in on this one says, How can we actually measure, encourage and or enforce affordability levels for current and future plex developments? What are realistic options to provide affordable housing for people at work force levels and below using the plex forms? Matt. 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: Sure, thanks. First, I would say that enabling small scale attached housing, it's lower cost to build. You share the cost of land over multiple units. The units themselves tend to be a little bit smaller. They consume less energy because of atash walls. They tend to have lower transportation costs, perhaps enabling households to have one fewer car because you're closer to where you work or have access to transit. So there's a whole suite of reasons why these types of housing provide deeper affordability at market rates. And that's a really important distinction. There's two types of issues here. We have subsidized affordable housing, which anybody, you know, probably 80 percent AMI or below is going to need some form of subsidy. There's very little market rate housing out there that will meet the needs that folks at that income level. And we do have a whole range of tools and even more tools we could use, like community land trusts to address those low income and very low income needs that will always probably require subsidy, but to ignore the role of housing affordability, which is to acknowledge that there's a whole range of affordability options out there at market rates, depending on what type of housing you build, would be a mistake. So townhomes are another thing that we could do more with because again, they're lower cost to build. They have smaller lots and they are more affordable to live in at market rates. So when it comes to affordable - affordability for moderate income and workforce housing needs, we actually do need to rely on the market to provide some of that. The market provides most housing and by careful regulation. It was mentioned earlier that duplexes represent deregulation. I don't think urban planners agree. That would be like saying - changing something to a commercial use from an industrial uses deregulation. It's just a different regulation. So allowing these historic forms like unneccessary dwelling unit, that wasn't deregulation either, and neither is a duplex. It's just a different type of house that is allowed and historically consistent with Bloomington, these residential neighborhoods. So allowing those more affordable housing types, again, the evidence is very robust on the substantially deeper affordability of these housing types. You helped to meet that whole range of affordability needs that subsidies simply cannot meet. All of so that's, I think, a somewhat nuanced point. But urban planners and housing economists understand it very well and pretty overwhelmingly support these types of changes to zoning. But it's it's often lost in the public debate where we think of affordable housing and market rate housing costs as a binary, that market rate is luxury and can't be affordable and that affordable housing is the only way to address needs. And I just think that's not reflective of the nuanced picture we have in our town or the Urban Planning and Housing Economics research. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Marc Cornett. 

>>MARC CORNETT: I think you in order for us to understand that research that that's talked about, we have to ignore the demographic problem that we have in Bloomington. We have, as Councilman Rollo several mentioned earlier, we have a near 50 percent need for student rental housing. And, you know, sometimes you even get slapped down when we talk about students. But in fact, that is the elephant in the room in this particular case as a rental cost outcome has nothing to do with the students, as people, per say, has everything to do with the investment opportunity that their rents pay for. We have an imbalanced system. The duplex process will do nothing to undo that. And in fact, what we really should have been doing in talking about affordability, what we should have been doing was to encourage as much homeownership in as many different people's hands as possible. Building city wealth collectively really goes back to the principle that you want as many different people to participate in that wealth building as possible. It's a tried and true proven strategy that homeownership, you can even call it forced savings is one of the few ways that most regular folks have to build intergenerational wealth. And I never thought I would live long enough to see how suburban sprawl and the term single family zoning would be flipped on its head and used to undo the qualities of the core neighborhoods. The core neighborhoods, in fact, have never been a single family zones. that was a term that was arbitrarily applied to those neighborhoods post construction. They predate zoning entirely. They are full of, as you correctly mentioned, duplexes, small apartment buildings, corner grocery stores that no longer our corner grocery stores, but the remnants are still there on and on and on. That is true urbanism, when you read Jane Jacobs, The Life and Death of Great American Cities, whether you look at the debates that have raged forever about public housing in Chicago, St. Louis, New York, that's long since been demolished in most cases and considered a bad idea. Our urban planning history is littered with bad ideas. I'm most frustrated personally as an urbanist and a professional in the design field that we have ignored the history lesson that's staring us in the face. And at the core, neighborhoods were quite effective in delivering affordable housing. And contrary to Mat's assumptions, the existing housing stock and the existing construction is in fact where our affordability was. My concern mostly is relate to the idea that duplex will most likely and there's no data to contradict this in Bloomington, it will lead to rental housing. And we know our rental housing ends up in the proximate areas around the university. And I would subscribe that this is almost a taking of the affordable housing stock in the city of Bloomington. And it's unfortunate. There are plenty of ways to do affordable housing in terms of looking at that history. Matt correctly mentioned rowhouses. There are models that could be added, but zoning has never been an effective tool to add those models. And if you actually drill down and read - Dan Parolek at Opticos who coined the term missing middle housing - he talks at length about the design aspect of implementing those strategies. It's a planning - urban planning problem and solution to be solved, it's not a zoning problem solution to be solved. Where he makes a mistake, in my opinion, is when he says single family zoning is a barrier to achieving missing middle housing. That has to be - that remark has to be qualified, in my opinion, when you talk about (unintelligible), because I think we just unleash the rental dynamic to consume more of our community. And I've got some - I've actually got some some numbers here from the "Lexicon of New Urbanism," which is driven by a number of leading authors in new urbanism and old urbanism. The optimum housing mix by type in urban areas for sale detached housing is maximum of 50%, minimum 42%. For sale row house, which would include live work, is 18% maximum, 10% minimum. So those two combined with for sale apartment - for sale apartment and loft, which would mean condominium, of course, at 20 - at 18% and 11% constitutes for the bulk of where your housing activity should be concentrated. You don't even get to the category of rental apartment and loft until you're down to 29% maximum. We're already over twice that number in rental housing. We should've done everything we could to encourage ownership, to encourage diversity of ownership. And we've, in fact, opened up the community to increase investment rental opportunity, and I find it quite unfortunate. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. I want to tell our listeners that you can still send us questions at You can also follow us on Twitter at @noonedition. I know that some of you have been getting a message back saying that Sara Wittmeyer is out of the office, but rest assured that your questions are coming to me and coming to Ethan and we're trying to get to as many of them as we can. I know that Jackie Scanlan wants to respond to this question and so does Dave Rollo. If you guys could keep it fairly, fairly short, I'd appreciate it. But, Jackie, go ahead. 

>>JACKIE SCANLAN: Thank you. I'll do my best. There was a lot in there from Mr. Cornett. One thing I just want to point out, we've said this in the public meetings - again, with the rhetoric, we hear a lot where people say we want to have increased homeownership opportunity. Well, on one property before this change, you could have one house, one homeowner. Now you can have two units with the opportunity for two homeowners. And so if all we're trying to do is increase the opportunity for home ownership, then that's what this does. If what we're trying to do is decrease the opportunity for rental - because this also increases that opportunity - then that is right and then this policy is not appropriate. But what we hear people saying is we want opportunity for more homeownership. And when people use the ADU example and say, oh, that allows homeownership - it allows one homeowner and one renter. It is - a renter is built in. You cannot own an ADU so it does not open an opportunity for homeownership as greatly as the opportunity for plexes does. And I will just not respond to everything he said, but I will make one point - and we do hear this as well quite a bit. You know, to me, just looking at the actual data and hearing someone who I know has worked in this town for decades say that existing neighborhoods are effective for affordable housing is just so shocking. You know, the median income - the median sale price for a home in Elm Heights in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic was $40,000 greater for the same number of homes that sold in 2019 and it's over $400,000. And yes, Elm Heights - not everyone is going to live in Elm Heights, I totally understand that. Prospect Hill, 2019 - almost $220,000. That isn't affordable for our area. These neighborhoods are great, they have a lot of amenities, and we are trying to make them be available for more people. And as a council member Flaherty points out, if you have two units on one lot, you can look at data, you can look in areas now where people - split ownership of duplexes - when you purchase half a duplex, it is going to be cheaper than if you were to purchase one home on that same piece of land. So we are trying to increase that opportunity for people to be able to locate in places that, yes, we have - a community have acknowledged are great and offer amenities and positives for those who are fortunate enough to be able to live there. I'll stop there. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Dave Rollo, one minute, and then Ethan has another question from a listener. 

>>DAVE ROLLO: Sure. Well, housing studies indicate that we have a dearth of single family homes, and so Mark Cornett is right that this is going to drive up the cost of those single family homes because it's going to eliminate them. It's faith-based to say that they're going to be owner-occupied. The market's going to drive it and the market's going to say, we can make the most at renting, so they're going to be rentals. And the most affordable homes are going to be the ones that are most, you know, vulnerable, I think, for a return on investment. So think of small homes near campus and Green Acres and east side neighborhoods. That will be a gold mine. And then, you know, regarding affordability - well, we had an affordability amendment and that was rejected by council, and that would've established 80% to 120% AMI requirement, which was essentially aiming at work force - 120% AMI - area median income - and the performance indicated that the profit margin was very healthy on that at some 30,000 or more for duplexes with amendment four. And yet that was rejected. We lost an opportunity. We gave away a public good and we - and which was through the up-zoning. And then we didn't capture what we should've in terms of affordability and we just turned it over to the market to decide what these things will rent for. Thank you. 

>>ETHAN BURKS: So we have a lot of listener questions talking about the UDO process moving forward. And Jackie, I think you're best to answer this. I know there's a time requirement on how the city is supposed to report and update the public on what's going on about duplex petitions and so on and so forth. Could you talk about the details of that and how that process will be carried out? 

>>JACKIE SCANLAN: Sure. So, as I mentioned, the ordinance related to duplexes will go back to - excuse me, to all plexes - will go back to the plan commission in the middle of June. If they ratify the changes that were made by council, then the mayor will sign the ordinance and it will go into effect. Six months after that, planning and transportation staff will report to the administration plan commission and council on what we have heard so far related to people requesting or inquiring about being able to duplex - to do plexes and those that have any - if any, have filed those types of things. So we will be updating those three groups and, obviously, of course, members of the public by doing that at their public hearings on the status of any movement on plexes. 

>>ETHAN BURKS: And then that brings up another question I have is that, throughout - not as much as the council's deliberations, but the plan commission mentioned this a lot - well, if we pass this measure, we can go back and change it later. You know, we can make the appropriate changes, we can do some little tweaks here and there. But how realistic is that, Jackie, to be able to do? Because, you know, with a lot of things in city government, it takes time. There's a process. There are a lot of steps and hoops you have to jump through. So how viable is that solution if for, say, the next six months to a year, we do see a problem with allowing too many duplexes or maybe we don't have enough? How would that work? 

>>JACKIE SCANLAN: It's very viable. We've done it before. We did it when the new administration wanted to review the rules for downtown development, again, from pressure from and concerns from the public. We had an amendment to change those rules while the new UDO process - while the comprehensive plan process was ending and the new UDO process was starting. The rules for downtown development were drastically changed in a matter of months. So I would - I believe it was three months at maximum, I'd have to look that up. Basically, we drafted a change, took it to plan commission and immediately to council and were able to make those changes. So it is possible. We've done it before and we are more than willing to do that if necessary. You know, we want this to have a positive outcome. We proposed it because we think it's a good idea. If it is going to have a negative effect, that's not what we're looking for, so then we will need to take it back to correct that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right, we have a comment from one of our listeners I just wanted to read. It says that she basically says that not all duplexes are rental. She says the duplex next door to me is owner-occupied. And then we've had some questions - I just want - I want to ask Matt about this one - Matt Flaherty about this one. Russ sends this in, so you probably know who this is. He said that he cited a lot of research about actual up-zonings. The type of up-zoning just passed actually decreases housing affordability. He says that you had said at the final meeting that you had some other research that contradicted that data, but that you didn't present any. He wonders if you could cite some of those studies. And, you know, you may have talked about that a little bit before. 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: Sure. I believe that's probably Russ Skiba. Mr. Skiba was, I think, the chair of a group calling itself Go Farther Together, which was a sort of lobbying or advocacy group that opposed allowing anything besides detached single family homes in neighborhoods. And, yeah, I believe Mr. Skiba sent something like a - what he called a white paper citing eight or nine sources that he thought supported the position of that group. And I let him know that I've spent a lot of time in the research - the urban planning and housing economics research over the last really four or five years and I just didn't agree with his assessment, which I think cited kind of two authors or studies, one from Michael Storper and one from Yonah Freemark that have been pretty regularly sort of mischaracterized or misapplied in some of these housing supply discussions. And similarly, a recent study from Daniel Kuhlmann, an Iowa state professor, about Minneapolis and zoning changes that I think, if you read the full article, which I have, it's not saying what was sort of presented by that advocacy or lobbying group as opposed to duplexes. It conflates cost of a lot with home - with affordability of homes. The point is that if a lot increases by two or three percent perhaps to buy but you put two homes on it, those homes will be more affordable. So I think it mischaracterizes that article and sort of misunderstands the nature of housing affordability when we're talking about small-scale attached homes. I was actually going to send this to Mr. Skiba, I'll just mention it on the air instead, which is that there was a good sort of review of this discussion around housing supply specifically and zoning recently by Todd Litman, who's with the Victoria Planning Policy Institute. It came out in an urban planning sort of a trade magazine called the Housing - sorry, "Planetizen." The post is called "The Housing Supply Debate, Evaluating The Evidence," and it's a pretty decent overview of a lot of the things from Evan Mast or Edward Glaeser or Jason Furman, President Obama's top economic adviser, others that I would've cited had I had more time to put together resources for Mr. Skiba. But this has a - you know, 15 or 16 different articles in housing, economics and urban planning universe that speak to up-zoning, small-scale attached housing and housing affordability. It does a good job of going over kind of what Mr. Litman characterizes as the three schools or camps in this housing policy discussion. There are free market proponents, housing supply advocates, who he calls housing experts, and then housing supply skeptics. And it's a really good overview piece. It cites a lot of research. I'm sure Mr. Skiba and others may have a good time digging into that. So that, again, is "The Housing Supply Debate: Evaluating The Evidence." 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right, Ethan? 

>>ETHAN BURKS: Marc, I - yeah, thank you, Bob. Marc, I kind of have a final thought question for you. So ultimately, the duplexes are approved for the core neighborhoods, but there's a cap at 15 per year, as we've said earlier, as part of one of the conditions. How much of an impact do you think 15 duplexes could really have on the neighborhoods? 

>>MARC CORNETT: Well, I think the cap is also potentially a temporary measure. We don't know what the future of the cap is. I mean, just like we can go back and review other aspects of zoning policy, we certainly can go back and review that. So I'm not that comfortable with really directly addressing the 15 cap. What I'm more concerned about is that all of the on-the-ground data in Bloomington, regardless of national and international research, points to the fact that these will most likely be student rentals. And anything that would transform, you know, housing stock to student rentals wouldn't be something that would - we could talk about at the same time we talk about affordability. That's really the core issue. And I'm just not optimistic about them becoming owner-occupied. There's so much work that goes into shared property line and the horizontal property regime, if you want to get into the weeds about the legal terminology, and condominiums and all the work that it takes to do that, I just don't see that as a viable outcome to the duplexing proposal. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, I'm going to let Matt finish us up. Sorry, Mark, but we've got about 30 seconds to go and Matt had one final comment he wanted to make. 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: Yeah, just a brief point and something Mr. Cornett just mentioned about assuming student rentals for duplexes. Of course, we have 706 existing plexes of some kind in our town, and I started digging into the data here. I looked at about 40% of them, looked at public voter data to determine age of the occupants. And with a pretty sizable sample of that data, 89% of occupants of these plexes existing in Bloomington were aged 25 or older. Only 3.7% of that sample were aged 22 or younger, which is a reasonable proxy for an undergraduate student. So I think this housing type, demonstrably, with the evidence in Bloomington, is not a predominantly undergraduate student rental market. So I just wanted to add that data and evidence to the discussion. Thanks. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Jackie, do you have any last words that you want to mention here in the last 10 seconds? 

>>JACKIE SCANLAN: Oh, I just want to say thank you for everyone who is involved and we appreciate the involvement and look forward to reporting back. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, we are out of time. Thank you so much to Jackie Scanlan from the city of Bloomington, Dave Rollo and Matt Flaherty, both members of the Bloomington City Council, and Mark Cornett, a Bloomington citizen. For our producer, Bente Bouthier, my co-host today, Ethan Burks and engineer John Bailey, I'm Bob Zaltsberg, thanks for listening to NOON EDITION. 


>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: NOON EDITION is a production of WFIU Public Radio. A podcast of this program is available at Production support comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at And from Bloomington Health Foundation - partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation - improving health and well-being takes a community. More at 



(Ethan Burkes, WFIU/WTIU News)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

After continued controversy on allowing multiplexes in single-family zoned neighborhoods near downtown Bloomington, city council passed amendments aimed at controlling their development.

Since 2019, the city council has debated an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance that would allow for multiplexes in neighborhoods zoned for single family use, but it originally did not pass.

The UDO is a document that sets the local zoning and building laws. It was approved by the city council back in 2018, but it has the flexibility to change over time through added amendments. 

This spring, city council took the matter up again after the Plan Commission submitted recommendations supporting allowing plexes. The city council looked at amendments that would put “guardrails” on the process of allowing for multiplexes in single family zoned neighborhoods. 

An amendment capping how many duplexes can be permitted in a neighborhood to 15 per year passed. An amendment that aimed at making duplexes more affordable was struck down, as some councilmembers saw it as a barrier to adding duplexes most likely to have the largest impact in the city’s neighborhoods near downtown.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note: This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. 


Jackie Scanlan, Development Services Manager

Dave Rollo, Bloomington City Council, District IV

Matt Flaherty, Bloomington City Council At-Large

Marc Cornett, architect and urbanist 

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