Expanding Housing Choices (EHC)

EHC Metrics Reporting

In October 2019, the County of Durham approved the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Text Amendment TC180007, Expanding Housing Choices (EHC) along with a resolution requesting regular reports on the effectiveness and impact of the EHC amendment. Staff have since compiled baseline data and tracked permits that are now permissible under EHC. Not all of the requested metrics are able to be tracked at this time due to unavailable or incomplete data. Planning staff regularly reports on the available metrics to the Joint City-County Planning Committee. Those reports and presentations are available below. Planning staff will continue to pursue methods for collecting the other data requested in the County resolution, which may require additional funding for data purchase and analysis.

  1. December 6, 2023 - Joint City-County Planning Committee

  2. April 5, 2023 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  3. November 30, 2022 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  4. April 6, 2022 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  5. December 1, 2021 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  6. August 4, 2021 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  7. April 7, 2021 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  8. December 2, 2020 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  9. August 5, 2020 - Joint City-County Planning Committee
  10. February 4, 2020 - Joint City-County Planning Committee


City Council heard this item at its September 3, 2019, meeting and approved it with a 6-1 vote. The City Council page is found here. The following is the staff memo, the ordinance containing the proposed changes, and associated attachments.


The County Board of County Commissioners held a rescheduled public hearing for this item on October 28, 2019, and approved it 5-0. The Board of County Commissioners received the same information, found below, as provided to City Council. No changes to the proposed amendments were made since the Board heard the item at its September 23rd meeting.

Additional Recent Articles/Discussions
  1. The Double Whammy: Housing and Income Inequality- CityLab. “New research shows how housing and income inequality reinforce one another, effectively splitting the U.S. into two different economies. America today faces a two-headed problem: economic inequality and housing inequality. The former has soared to heights not seen since the Gilded Age. The latter, as home prices spike in coastal superstar cities and lag in much of the country’s middle, has become a main feature of our divided, winner-take-all geography. The two phenomena are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. Together, they act as a brake on the performance of the economy and limit both migration and upward mobility.”
  2. To Fix Its Housing Crunch, One U.S. City Takes Aim at the Single-Family Home- Bloomsberg Businessweek. The article discusses the process and issues regarding the Minneapolis 2040 Plan and its landmark policy to remove single-family only zoning to address racial equity and housing affordability. Covers similar issues Durham faces today.
  3. Homeward Bound. The Road to Affordable Housing - National League of Cities. An expansive report by the National League of Cities that discusses the importance of housing attainability, establishing national and local policy recommendations with a goal “…to ensure that safe and quality housing will be viewed as a right, not a choice.”
  4. No, Zoning Reform Isn’t Magic. But It’s Crucial.- CityLab. A discussion and response to “Upzoning Chicago: Impacts of a Zoning Reform on Property Values and Housing Construction,” making the point that, although “…the finding that upzoning didn’t quickly increase development in areas of Chicago,” it “…shouldn’t make zoning reform any less of a priority.” 
  5. New construction makes homes more affordable—even for those who can't afford the new units- W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Primarily the summary of “The Effect of New Market-Rate Housing Construction on the Low-Income Housing Market,” by Evan Mast of the Upjohn Institute, this article discusses the new research that building more housing, including more expensive housing, can drive down the costs within metro areas, including lower-income neighborhoods. 


 On June 11, 2019, the Planning Commission voted 12-1 to recommend approval of the EHC Subcommittee recommendations.


EHC Subcommittee Final Recommendations - June 7, 2019

Committee Members:

  • Commissioner Brian Buzby, Planning Commission Chair
  • Commissioner Elaine Hyman, Planning Commission Vice-Chair
  • Commissioner Erin Durkin
  • Commissioner Aram Al-Turk
  • Commissioner Tom Miller

Documents Provided to the Committee:


Durham Planning Commission EHC Subcommittee Meeting - May 24, 2019
Location: Durham City Hall, Ground Floor, Conference Room GA
Time: 8:00 am to 10:00 am

Durham Planning Commission EHC Subcommittee Meeting - May 28, 2019
Location: Durham City Hall, Ground Floor, Conference Room GA
Time: 8:00 am to 10:00 am

Durham Planning Commission EHC Subcommittee Meeting - May 31, 2019
Location: Durham City Hall, Ground Floor, Conference Room GA
Time: 8:00 am to 10:00 am

Planning Commission Public Hearing

Planning Commission Agenda Items - March 12, 2019 , May 14, 2019, and June 11, 2019

Key changes from the November Open House proposals included:

  • Revised height limitations for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) based on location;
  • ADUs are not permitted with Duplexes or the 2,000 square foot Small Lot Bonus Option;
  • The Single-Family Attached Housing Type standards have been modified to be consistent with duplexes;
  • New maximum building coverage and height limitations for new infill development;
  • New density maximums that apply to Small Lot options;
  • "Small House/Small Lot” and reduced lot sizes are restructured to be a “Small lot bonus” program.

How to Contact the Planning Department

For more information, please email the Development Services Center at [email protected].

Residential Zoning Districts in the Urban Tier

Most provisions of EHC are only applicable within residential zoning districts in the urban tier and within the RU-5 and RU-5(2) zoning districts in the suburban tier, although a few provisions – such as the allowance of up to 800 square feet for each ADU – are applicable County-wide. Please note that a small number of RU-5 and RU-5(2) lots are outside of the mapped area. You can verify the zoning of any property using Durham Maps.

Community Conversation Public Event

Community Conversation EHC
Spanish Version Flyer - Community Conversation EHC

Watch the February 2019 Episode of "In Touch with Durham County" (beginning at 14:40) for an interview with Planning Director, Patrick Young, discussing the Expanding Housing Choices project.


The Planning Department has received and continues to receive numerous comments regarding the set of proposed changes to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) known as the “Expanding Housing Choice” initiative or “EHC.” EHC is intended to create additional housing opportunities in the highest demand neighborhoods in Durham, while preserving the character and quality of these neighborhoods. This should help stabilize housing prices and allow for greater housing access in high-opportunity neighborhoods.  

Information on the EHC was presented for discussion at November 2018 open houses, at neighborhood meetings, and is available below (please see full list of public engagement meetings below).   

Additionally, 2 separate surveys of residents regarding their thoughts and opinions on expanded housing choice were conducted.  Summary and detailed information regarding the first survey performed during the summer of 2018, which received over 1,300 responses, is available under “June-August 2018 Questionnaire Results” below. The Open House Questionnaire, which was open for participation from November 26, 2018, thru January 28, 2019, is now closed. Results will be published shortly. Responses to this questionnaire totaled 115 with 337 comments.

The anticipated date of the Planning Commission public hearing for the EHC project is March 12, 2019, with the complete set of proposed UDO amendments publicly available by February 25th. The Planning Commission is charged with making a recommendation to the City Council and the Board of County Commissioners, who will also hold public hearings and ultimately make the final decisions on the UDO amendments proposed through the EHC.

The following is the anticipated schedule for this project heading towards the March 12, 2019, Planning Commission hearing date:

  1. February 15, 2019 - Last day for neighborhood meetings (subject to staff availability).
  2. February 20th - Last day that public comments will be accepted by the Planning Department regarding the proposed EHC UDO Text Amendments. Any public comments after February 20, 2019, can be made to the Planning Commission (advisory body to the City Council and the Board of County Commissioners) and/or City Council and/or the Board of County Commissioners. The Planning Commission, City Council and the Board of County Commissioners can provide direction to staff to make edits, additions or modifications to the EHC UDO Text Amendments after February 20, 2019.
  3. February 25th - Release of Proposed EHC UDO Text Amendments 
  4. March 12th - Planning Commission public hearing
1. Public outreach to date (as of February 28, 2019):

Planning Staff has performed a variety of public outreach and meetings beginning in the summer of 2018. They were as follows:

1. EHC Housing Practitioners’ Panel: March 9
2. Summer Pop-up Events: Includes emails, press and social media notifications, “Bull City Today,” and website
  • Rock the Park - June 9th from 6-8 pm Duke Park
  • Durham Farmers Market – June 23rd from 9-12
  • Rock the Park - July 7th from 6-8 pm at Forest Hills Park
  • Rock the Park - August 4th from 6-8 at Southern Boundaries Park
  • Latino Festival – August 11th from 12-5
3. Summer Online Survey - Active June through August 15
4. EHC Housing Practitioners’ Panel: June 5
5. Inter-Neighborhood Council (INC) meeting - July 24
6. Appearance Commission - August 15
7. Work sessions:
• City Council - August 22 
• Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) - September 4
8. Triangle J Council of Government Housing Practitioners’ Quarterly Meeting - June 8
9. EHC Housing Practitioners’ Panel: October 30
10. November open houses - November 27 and 29 (see materials below under "Documents")
• Open House Online questionnaire - active from November 26th thru January 28th 
• Online documents
• Email, City social media notifications, “Bull City Today”
11. Meetings with the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit - November 19 and December 18
12. Meeting with Duke Office for Durham and Regional Affairs - Affordable Housing Group - December 20
13. Development Community Stakeholders Quarterly Meeting - December 6
14. City Council Work Session - December 6
15. Planning Commission info item - January 3
16. BOCC Work Session - January 7
17. Watts-Hillandale Neighborhood Association - January 7
18. Old West Durham Neighborhood Association - Board on January 16 and general meeting February 4
19. Tuscaloosa-Lakewood Neighborhood Association Board - January 24
20. Trinity Park Neighborhood Association - February 3
21. Morehead Hill Neighborhood Association - February 5
22. EHC Housing Practitioners’ Panel: February 7, 
23. Forest Hills - Scheduled for February 19
24. Spring Valley/Cole Mill/West Hills area residents - Scheduled for February 25
25. INC Meeting: February 26
26. Burch Avenue Neighborhood - Scheduled for March 7
27. Northgate Park Neighborhood - Scheduled for March 7

2. NEW - Comment Summary and Potential Revisions as of February 1, 2019:

 Expanding Housing Choice Topics for UDO Revisions, February 2019 (PDF)


Fast-paced population growth, limited availability of developable tracts, and a renewed preference for in-town living has led to a housing availability and affordability challenge for Durham. Over time, zoning rules have restricted development in many neighborhoods almost exclusively to single-family dwellings, eliminating many of the small-scale and often more affordable multifamily options that once existed. Often referred to as “Missing Middle” housing, this project will explore ways to eliminate regulatory barriers and expand the choices that people have when it comes to housing types. 

Staff presented an overview of the Expanding Housing Choices project, covering the background, project scope, and proposed concepts at Durham City Council work session on August 23. The same materials are scheduled to be shared with the Board of County Commissioners at their work session on September 4. Links to all agenda materials are listed below under documents, as well as an audio recording of the meeting  


 November 2018 Open House Discussion Materials:
a. Open House Presentation (PDF)
b. Overview (PDF)
c. Process (PDF)
d. Duplexes (PDF)
e.  Lot Dimensions and Density (PDF)
f. Infill Standards (PDF)
g. Small House/Small Lot (PDF)
h.  Other Proposed Changes (PDF)
i.  Sample Illustrative Scenarios
 1)  RU-5 Scenarios (PDF)
 2)  RU-5(2) Scenarios (PDF)
 3)  RS-8 Scenarios (PDF)
 4)  RS-10 Scenarios (PDF)

June-August 2018 Questionnaire Results

During the summer, over 1,300 people responded to a questionnaire issued by the Durham Planning Department aimed at gaining insight into people’s perceptions of issues driving current trends in the housing market and of their own housing choices. The questionnaire was not intended to be a scientific survey, but a means to gauge public opinion to inform future directions of this initiative. 

The questionnaire was made available from June 15 through August 15. Advertisement of the questionnaire was coordinated by the City and County Office of Public Affairs through traditional and social media platforms. In an effort to reach a broader cross-section of the Durham community, Planning Department staff attended events throughout the summer, including the Rock the Park concert series, the Durham Farmers’ Market, and the Latino Festival. Flyers were also distributed through the Police Department during National Night Out events.

The City Council, at its August 23, 2018, work session was briefed on the results of the questionnaire, as was the Board of County Commissioners at its September 4, 2018, work session. The documents below provide a review of the questionnaire results, including a summary of the comments received through the questionnaire and a complete listing of the comments. 

Appendix A - Compared Results

Appendix B - Summary of Comments

Appendix C - List of Comments

August 23, 2018, City Council Work Session



Proposed Concepts

Questionnaire Results


June 6, 2018, Joint City-County Planning Committee