The Single-Family Zoning Analysis aims to identify issues within zoning regulations that can make constructing desired infill housing difficult or cost-ineffective.

The Single-Family Zoning Analysis is a project of the Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium in partnership with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and facilitated by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. The project is the first of four proposed phases that will address the issue of single-family infill development in the First Suburbs. This first phase covers an analysis of single-family zoning to determine whether current or desired housing can be built under current regulations. Future phases would include a best practices guidebook, code changes for participating communities, and ongoing tracking of single-family infill housing.

Project Goals

Defining Infill Housing

For this project, infill housing is defined as new housing constructed on existing residentially zoned lots within largely developed communities. Infill housing tends to be built on vacant lots where a previous home was demolished, often as a result of the 2007-2009 Great Recession and housing crisis.

The Infill Goal

The goal of infill housing is to bring new people, investment, and opportunity to communities while diversifying the local housing stock. New homes can complete neighborhoods that were scarred by the Great Recession while lifting up the values of nearby homes and bringing new people to support nearby businesses. Infill housing is often built in neighborhoods that are transit-accessible and walkable, making these locations more sustainable for housing.

The Zoning Problem

While appropriate infill housing is the goal, zoning regulations can often stand in the way of infill construction. Zoning codes were typically written in different eras, when abundant undeveloped land could be subdivided into new lots easily and zoning was intended to disperse population. It accomplished this through minimum lot sizes, required separation between homes, and other regulatory requirements.

In today's world, infill housing must be built in existing neighborhoods on individual lots that can be smaller and tighter than what zoning requires. In order to build on these lots, a builder either must request a variance or may be forced to combine multiple lots together. Many times, however, vacant lots are left unbuilt.

existing lot diagram
Existing Lots: Lots have existing lots, widths, and depths that may have been set prior to zoning.

existing structure diagram
Existing Structures: Structures can include existing homes, garages, and accessory buildings.

zoning requirement diagram
Lots Required by Zoning: The width, depth, and size of lots required by zoning may be larger than current lots.

buildable area diagram
Buildable Area: After subtracting minimum setbacks and maximum heights, the remaining area is where structures can be built.

diagram of conflicts between existing buildings and zoning requirements
Conflicts: Often existing homes and lots are in conflict with zoning, meaning new homes can be difficult to build.

Project Materials

First Suburbs Consortium Meetings

Consortium Meeting #2 (Virtual Meeting, September 1, 2021)

Consortium Meeting #1 (Virtual Meeting, June 3, 2021)

This presentation is also available for downloading.

Contact Us

Questions or comments about the Single-Family Zoning Analysis should be directed to:

Mr. Patrick Hewitt, AICP
Planning Manager, Strategy & Development, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission


Ms. Rachel Novak, AICP
Planner, Cuyahoga County Planning Commission

Top photo courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank