City Planning

BTV Neighborhood Code

Burlington’s neighborhoods are the soul of our community.

In Burlington, we have strong connections to our neighborhoods' unique patterns and architectural features, their link to the city’s history and sense of place, and the people that live in them. At the same time, our neighborhoods have an important role in addressing the city’s chronic and emerging housing challenges, meeting the needs of current and future households, and making tangible efforts to address the climate emergency. In fact, planBTV recognizes the opportunity for neighborhoods to evolve in incremental ways in order to meet the needs of current and future generations.  

What is BTV Neighborhood Code?

BTV Neighborhood Code is all about how we build on the strength of the city's neighborhoods, evaluate the zoning tools that regulate new homes in these areas today, and identify opportunities for new neighborhood-scale housing citywide. In particular, this project will: 

  • Document how the city’s neighborhoods have developed over time, and how zoning policies have changed what can be built and where 
  • Identify current barriers to allowing more and different types of homes within existing neighborhoods, and opportunities to introduce new neighborhood-scale housing options 
  • Explore zoning changes that build on neighborhoods' unique patterns while facilitating their ability to meet th eneeds of current and future housholdes, both by providing more context-sensitive zoning tools for areas well-suited for "middle" housing, and by considering the scale of development allowed along major streets served by transit.

Cities large and small are taking steps to provide more housing options within existing neighborhoods. Often referred to as “missing middle housing,” this work focuses on buildings such as duplexes, fourplexes, and cottage courts which were once created in many historic, walkable neighborhoods but that have become increasingly illegal to build since the mid-1900's. 

Opticos has coined the term "missing middle" to refer to the middle range of buildings that were once created in many walkable neighborhoods, but have since been outlawed.


BTV Neighborhood Code is one piece of the housing puzzle.

Housing is one of the most important topics facing our city. While a lot of progress has been made in recent years to build on the city's proud housing legacy, we have more to do to address both chronic and acute challenges. In December 2021, Mayor Weinberger released a 10-point plan that provides a roadmap to double the rate of housing production and end chronic homelessness in our community.

The BTV Neighborhood Code is one of the important housing policies prioritized in this plan. This effort will evaluate opportunities for new homes to be created in every neighborhood in ways that reflect the character of these parts of the city. Other priority policies include enabling housing in parts of our city where it is not allowed today and enabling greater numbers of student beds to be created on UVM's Trinity Campus. 

Over the next year, BTV Neighborhood Code will engage residents and city officials in opportunities to learn about and provide input on neighborhood-scale housing opportunities. 

View the presentation slides from the October 25, 2022 Planning Commission


Frequently Asked Questions: 

Sometimes this process is referred to as “infill.” The BTV Neighborhood Code is about identifying ways that under-used or vacant parcels could be renovated or redeveloped in a way that allows for new housing to be built while still being consistent with the look and feel of existing neighborhoods. Essentially, this process is a way to add new homes and neighbors to our communities in a thoughtful, sustainable manner. The tools and types of homes that can be added will vary based on location. For example, small apartment buildings could be allowed along major streets that connect existing neighborhoods to the downtown and other commercial areas, while smaller buildings such as triplexes could be more fitting for neighborhood streets. The scale of new buildings is sometimes referred to as “the missing middle”. This process is very different from zoning proposals being discussed for other areas of the city, where larger developments of dozens or even hundreds of new homes are envisioned on much larger properties.
Prior to the middle of the 20th century, there was no missing middle. Residential neighborhoods in towns and cities across the United States, including Burlington, were built with a mix of single-family homes, duplexes, rowhouses and apartment buildings small and large. However, the era of the car ushered in a change in the way Americans built neighborhoods. The New North End is an example of a neighborhood built for cars – houses are far apart and each lot includes extra space for parking cars. Simultaneously, in much of the United States, real estate developers, financial institutions, planners and elected officials worked to make the old way of building neighborhoods illegal. There were many reasons for this, but the primary objective in making the traditional denser forms of housing illegal was to exclude “undesirable” populations – the poor and minorities associated with the more affordable housing that we now call “missing middle.” Currently in Burlington, residential structures that are “legal” to build are either low-density single-family homes or high-density apartments and condominiums, leaving no options in between. Out of the city’s 2,500 acres of residential land, 83% is zoned for low density residential homes. This proposal will allow both homeowners and affordable housing developers to build “middle” housing by amending dimension and density standards for low density residential areas, resulting in a diversity of residents, building types, and affordability.
Neighborhood Code advances Burlington’s equity goals and its commitment to Housing as Human Right. Amid the city’s housing crisis, middle to low-income residents are struggling with housing affordability and displacement. Aging residents are often forced to choose between moving away from the communities they’ve called home or staying in a large single-family house they can no longer maintain. Adults with disabilities often have few housing options and almost always have to reside at home with their parents or in institutional housing downtown. This proposal is a step to ensure that there will be more housing options available for residents of varying income levels, ages and abilities as it allows homeowners and housing developers to develop small-scale residential structures on existing lots. There is no guarantee that every new home built under the Neighborhood Code will be affordable, but as more homes are built, there will be more options for residents and prices will likely stabilize, especially in areas where they have risen dramatically in recent years.
In September of 2020, the Vermont state legislature moved to pass S.237, a bill that makes changes to municipal zoning bylaws to promote the construction of new housing, including accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and multi-unit dwellings. This bill addresses barriers to building more compact residential development found in municipal zoning laws. Click here for more information on bill S.237.
Over the next 4 months, the Office of City Planning will be hosting a variety of education and outreach events centered around this proposed amendment. Additionally, you can sign up for our email list to receive updates on the proposal’s development and progress.


Upcoming Events

Learn more about the BTV Neighborhood Code's upcoming events!

Implementing PlanBTV

Zoning ordinances and other policies, capital projects, programs, and other studies

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Do you have questions about this project? Contact Planning Director, Meagan Tuttle, AICP, at
BTV Neighborhood Code is supported by a Bylaw Modernization Grant from the VT Dept of Housing & Community Development, and in collaboration with and in-kind support from AARP-Vermont's Livable Communities program.