Advocating for Your Community’s Future

Planning and zoning are two of the pillars that serve as the basis for all communities. It’s vital for real estate professionals to understand the basic components and processes of the planning and zoning phases of real estate transactions.

That’s why, on September 19, the Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD)—a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)—launched its newest certificate course titled, “Planning and Zoning: Advocating for Your Community’s Future.”

Smart growth principles

“Where someone lives impacts all aspects of their life, from health to education to income,” says Hugh Morris, CRD’s smart growth policy representative. “CRD is committed to helping our members remove housing barriers and build inclusive communities. To do so, it’s crucial that they understand the planning and zoning stages of real estate development.”

After all, by acquiring a greater understanding of the visioning, planning and zoning process, a REALTOR® stands to become a better community advocate to affect positive changes and gain a competitive advantage in their market.

Launching via a live virtual course, CRD will also offer both a classroom and online version so that REALTORS® can conveniently access course material from the comfort of their own home or office—or whatever location is best suited to their particular learning style.

“You will learn to promote development that is both sustainable and beneficial for the community by advocating for smart growth principles,” explains Morris. “You will see the future of your community, and your business, in a whole new way.”

The new course builds on CRD’s “Smart Growth for the 21st Century” class, which CRD has offered for more than a decade.

“Many local association executives, government affairs directors and REALTORS® recommended that coupling a deep dive into planning and zoning with the smart growth class would produce even more informed and effective advocates,” notes Morris.

Some of the main topics explored in the course are the components and processes associated with zoning; various perspectives on growth, with tips on identifying specific strategies that can lead to more sustainable and equitable communities; the factors that will be driving community planning and development both today and in the future; and savvy ways to implement smart growth principles in your town to enhance the community and build your business.

Fostering vibrant, environmentally conscious communities

Feature Image 11 Page 61Christine Windle, director of Community Outreach for CRD, notes that REALTORS® who take the course will learn skills to enhance their business and advocate for smart, sustainable and equitable growth in their communities.

“Smart growth is an urban planning and development approach that prioritizes sustainable, well-planned and efficient growth,” she says. “Benefits include reduced traffic congestion, sustainable transportation options, preservation of open space, increased economic growth, greater housing opportunities and more equitable community engagement.”

A recent NAR survey found that Americans prefer to live in walkable communities, and those living in walkable communities report a higher quality of life. Therefore, smart growth helps communities achieve greater walkability through the principles of higher density, mixed-use buildings and infill development.

“Learning how the planning and zoning process works in their community, along with the tenets of smart growth development, is a great first step,” says Windle. “The next step is turning that knowledge into action by showing up where land use and transportation decisions are being made. There are many ways to advocate for your community’s needs, from meeting with your elected officials to providing comments at council meetings on new planning ordinances.”

Morris goes on to explain that smart growth reshapes the way REALTORS® view communities by fostering a greater awareness of sustainability, walkability, community engagement, affordability and quality of life. These changes in perception can drive a shift toward more livable, vibrant and environmentally conscious communities with an eye on affordability and economic opportunity.

“This shift is crucial, as we see a substantial demand among Americans of all ages for communities that embody these principles,” he says. “In NAR’s survey, 79% of respondents said that being within an easy walk of other places and things, such as shops and parks, was ‘very’ or ‘somewhat important.’ And 78% of those respondents indicated that they would be willing to pay more to live in a walkable community.”

Effecting Positive Change

Planning and zoning serve as the basis for all communities—past, present and future. By understanding the visioning, planning and zoning processes, a REALTOR® can be empowered to affect positive change as a community advocate and to gain a competitive advantage as a respected real estate leader. Those are some of the primary goals of the class.

“By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the basics of planning and zoning, and how these processes can lead to more effective ways of developing communities,” says Morris. “With the support of tools and resources from CRD, REALTORS® will be ready to get involved in building stronger, more resilient communities across the country.”

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