October 7, 2022

Adam Millard-Ball, Professor, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs


Turning wide streets into housing


1:40pm - 3:00pm


1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village


How wide are streets in the US, and what is the underlying value of the right-of-way? I use a GIS analysis based on tax parcel polygons to show that the land value of urban residential streets totals $959 billion in the 20 largest counties in the US. Residential streets average 55 ft wide, far greater than the functional minimum of 16 ft required for access. Wide streets are one contributor to high housing costs and supply constraints, which exacerbate the housing affordability crisis in high-cost cities. While street width requirements can be reduced in newer developments, how can existing neighborhoods be retrofitted to turn streets into housing? 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 Sketch

Adam Millard-Ball is professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, where he teaches courses on transportation planning, environmental policy, and data science, and serves as acting director of the UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies. Trained as an economist, a geographer, and an urban planner, he analyzes the climate consequences of transportation and land-use decisions. Adam holds a PhD from Stanford University and was previously a Principal with transportation planning firm NelsonNygaard Consulting Associates.

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