Region Forward Blog

The Morning Measure: Debating D.C.’s height limits…again

Apr 7, 2011
Region Forward

It seems like this topic used to get less frequent play but the merits and drawbacks of building height limits specifically in D.C. are being discussed yet again. Ryan Avent sparked the discussion yesterday with a proposal for allowing taller buildings in specific districts in exchange for developers/owners paying a one-time fee-per-floor to the city.

The notion of “height permits” is similar to density bonuses that developers get in many jurisdictions – wherein the jurisdiction increases beyond the normal level the amount of units permitted to be built in exchange for the developer providing more affordable units paying for nearby infrastructure etc. –except that in Avent’s proposal the exchange would be a fee that would increase the city’s revenues.

BeyondDC responded with a qualified support of Avent’s proposal. One of the main concerns being that such a proposal not lead to the creation of dead zones between taller and taller buildings – based on the idea that height limits make density and vibrancy more likely. Lydia DePillis from the Housing Complex blog also offers support for the idea with caveats. Instead of cash payments DePillis thinks the city should award height permits when justified by great architectural proposals to maintain and increase the city’s beauty.

What do you think about these various ideas for increasing in part D.C.’s height limits? What role if any does the height limit play in preventing the creation of more affordable housing units in high-demand places like the District? Let us know what you think.

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