Livable Communities – Planning and Zoning


Planning and zoning have far-reaching implications for community life, dictating, for example, how well residential areas are connected to businesses, medical services, and community and civic centers.

  • Historically, planning and zoning separated commercial and residential land uses. This practice, promoting car-dependent sprawl, was adopted at a time when older adults constituted a smaller demographic of the population and life expectancies were shorter. The result today is a significant number of older adults who are aging in suburbia.
  • Increasingly, communities are embracing Smart Growth, a set of planning principles that promote more compact, walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income, environmentally sensitive communities with a range of transportation and housing choices.
  • Demand is coming not only from older adults, but from individuals across the lifespan.
  • While Smart Growth benefits everyone in a community, good community design is a fundamental necessity to successfully age in place. It can promote social cohesion and physical activity and connectivity to available public transit and essential services.
  • Zoning can be used to promote housing arrangements that support
    residents across the lifespan by

    • Including accessory dwelling units and shared housing;
    • Reducing minimum lot sizes to allow for higher-density development; and
    • Encouraging universal design features in new construction.

Recommendations for Communities

_____ Ensure that municipal plans of conservation and development include planning for older adults and individuals with disabilities to remain in their homes and communities, pursuant to Public Act 13-250.

_____ Revise zoning codes to promote safe, intergenerational communities by maximizing opportunities for Smart Growth. Smart Growth includes:

  • Mixing land uses;
  • Taking advantage of compact building design;
  • Creating a range of housing opportunities and choices;
  • Creating walkable neighborhoods;
  • Fostering distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place;
  • Preserving critical environmental areas;
  • Strengthening and directing development towards existing communities;
  • Providing a variety of transportation choices;
  • Making development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective; and
  • Encouraging stakeholder collaboration in development decisions

_____ Create diverse, accessible and affordable housing and transportation choices by

  • Promoting housing arrangements to support residents across the lifespan, including accessory dwelling units and shared housing;
  • Reducing minimum lot sizes to allow for higher-density development;
  • Encouraging universal design features in new construction;
  • Adopting policies that support complete streets, transit-oriented development, and robust fixed-route and demand responsive transportation systems; and
  • Conduct health, environmental, and economic impact assessments to ensure that land use planning projects and policies take into consideration the potential implications of community design on all residents.