Zoning Overview

What is Zoning?

Zoning is a tool that most cities use to govern property “uses” (e.g. residential, commercial, or industrial), the size of buildings, and how buildings relate to their surroundings. Zoning is used by municipalities to carry out urban development plans while protecting public health, safety, and welfare by dividing land into zones. Each zone has designated permits and prohibited zoning ordinances.

To ensure each project is set up for success, Crowdcopia requires zoning verification documentation for anything above a single family residence. The specific document needed will be outlined by your loan representative upon reviewing the zoning and intended use for your project as these factors determine what document is required.

Identifying a Potential Investment Property’s Zoning

Before diving too deep into a potential real estate opportunity, first identify the “as-of-right” legal use of the property (single-family, duplex, triplex, quadplex, mixed-use, commercial etc).

Knowing the property’s zoning information will clarify what options are available for post-development use, and provide further insight into deciding on an exit strategy. It’s in your best interest to avoid getting into a project infringing zoning ordinances without city approval. The potential downfall – project delays from an L&I “Stop Work Orders” that will hit you with holding costs, time, and violation fees.

Municipalities have zoning maps on their websites that outline zoning districts in that town or city. The links below provide useful zoning and property information for the city of Philadelphia:

Atlas – Enter the property address and click the zoning tab on the left . This will display the zoning classification of the subject property.

Office of Property Assessment – Enter property address and the grey box on the right side will display some basic property and lot information, including zoning.

Legal Uses & Number of Units

Once zoning has been identified, the next step is to verify what uses are options as-of-right and how many units are permissible based on the lot size.

The Philadelphia Zoning Code: Quick Guide is a resource from Philadelphia’s Department of Planning and Development to break down each zoning code’s intended uses and dimensional standards.

Each district is assigned based on the city’s urban development plan, which takes into consideration the welfare of the local population. Each zoning code accommodates certain types of uses, and prohibits others.

Below are some examples of typical zoning types:

RSD and RSA (Residential Single-Family – Detached/Attached) accommodates single-family residences.

RTA (Residential Two-Family) accommodates up to 2 units

RM (Residential Multi-Family) accommodates moderate to high density residential multi-unit buildings.

CMX (Commercial Mixed-Use) accommodates buildings with both commercial and residential uses.

It is best to consult with a zoning authority or attorney if there is a question about the legally allowable use and how it can be changed. We are happy to recommend a local zoning authority or zoning attorney if you have further questions.

How can we help you?

Contact us today with your real estate investment questions!

Dan B.