Rewriting the rules

May 23, 2019
7:00 p.m.

The Housing System logo

This event is part of a spring 2019 series called The Housing System.

Land use, planning, architecture, construction, safety, accessibility—regulations are at the heart of how we design and build our cities. While most are passed with good intentions (safety, universal access, environmental protection), others are needlessly cumbersome or worse, such as zoning that fosters segregation. Who is benefitting from which rules? And how can they be changed when they no longer serve a productive purpose?

Regulations are highly contested territory when it comes to housing, affecting issues including affordability, access to resources, and public health. This session will focus on efforts—from revising zoning to repealing parking mandates to permitting backyard or basement homes—to encourage more housing density, affordability, and a larger variety of housing types in all neighborhoods. Looking to recent examples from Los Angeles and Minneapolis, presented respectively by architect Dana Cuff and advocate Anton Schieffer, we’ll examine the outcomes and consequences of policy changes affecting what and where we build housing. How do we shape existing regulations to get the results that we want, or rewrite the rules altogether?


Gianpaolo Baiocchi heads NYU’s Urban Democracy Lab, which launched in 2014 at the Gallatin School to provide a space for scholars and practitioners to collaborate and exchange ideas for cultivating just, sustainable, and creative urban futures. A sociologist and an ethnographer by training, he has written extensively about actually existing civic life and participatory democracy in the context of cities. He was one of the founders of the Participatory Budgeting Project, and works closely with the Right To The City Alliance on people-driven alternatives to private housing. His most recent book is We, The Sovereign (Polity Press/Radical Futures).

Dana Cuff is Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA where she is also Director of cityLAB, an award-winning think tank that advances experimental urbanism and architecture. Since receiving her Ph.D. in Architecture from Berkeley, Cuff has published and lectured widely about spatial justice, the architectural profession, and affordable housing. She is the author of several books, including The Provisional City about postwar housing in Los Angeles, and a co-authored book (in bookstores next year) documenting her innovative cross-disciplinary project at UCLA called the Urban Humanities Initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation. Based on cityLAB’s studies, she co-authored a landmark bill that permits “backyard homes” on virtually all 8 million single-family properties in California (AB 2299, Bloom-2016), doubling the density of suburbs across the state. She and her team are currently working on a wide range of new forms of affordable housing to be co-located with schools.

Fabiana Meacham is the Chief of Staff for the Office of Policy & Strategy at New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). She has managed a range of policy and operations projects for the agency, including the implementation of a citywide fair housing assessment and an initiative to support the development of community land trusts. Prior to joining HPD, she worked for the World Bank on urban infrastructure projects throughout Brazil. She holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and a BA in Architectural Studies.

Anton Schieffer lives in Minneapolis and is a co-founder of Neighbors For More Neighbors (N4MN), a housing advocacy group in Minnesota. N4MN supports progressive land use policies and played an important role in framing policy discussions around Minneapolis 2040, the city’s recent update to its comprehensive plan. Anton also writes for about housing issues, public policy, and how people interact with their environment.


Architectural League programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo. This program is also supported by the J. Clawson Mills Fund of The Architectural League.