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Wide residential streets in US cities are both a contributor to homelessness and a potential strategy to provide more affordable housing. In residential neighborhoods, subdivision ordinances typically set binding standards for street width, far in excess of what is economically optimal or what private developers and residents would likely prefer. These street width standards are one contributor to high housing costs and supply restrictions, which exacerbate the housing affordability crisis in high-cost cities.

Cities can certainly reduce street widths in new development. But what about existing neighborhoods? Dr. Adam Millard-Ball proposes two strategies through which excess street space can accommodate housing in a formalized way. First, cities could cede part of the street right-of-way to adjacent property owners, either as part of new development or as a means to create space for front-yard accessory dwelling units. Second, cities could permit camper van parking or tiny houses on the right-of-way, analogous to liveaboard canal boats that provide housing options in some UK cities. Many people already live on the streets; and rather than evicting unhoused people from that land, cities might think about how municipal reforms can turn streets into safe and affordable housing.

Biographical Information

Adam Millard-Ball is an associate professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA, focusing on transportation and climate change. Before joining UCLA, he taught environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz, and was a Principal with transportation planning firm Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates. He holds a PhD in Environment and Resources from Stanford University.


Housing -- Social aspects, Housing needs, Urban land use, Planning


Transportation | Urban Studies

Persistent Identifier

Turning Streets Into Housing