Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cities should ease rigid permitting and zoning rules to help businesses and residents recover during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a trio of policy briefs out today by researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Why it matters: They are among the dullest City Hall tasks, but these decisions determine significant outcomes such as where housing can be built and whether restaurants are allowed to open in a particular neighborhood.

  • Flexibility will be key to boost chances of rebounding, which may lead to solutions to problems that have long plagued urban centers, argue researchers Emily Hamilton, Nolan Gray and Salim Furth.

1. Housing: Restrictions on the amount and type of housing allowed to be built are contributing to the public health crisis by causing overcrowding in some places and unsustainable rents in others.

  • Easing permitting restrictions on accessory dwelling units — or secondary units placed on the same lot as single-family housing, above a garage or in a basement — would help seniors wanting alternatives to nursing homes where COVID-19 has run rampant.
  • Relaxing building codes to allow for temporary homeless shelters would let homeless individuals safely physically distance from others.
  • Allowing low-cost housing like modern-day boarding houses or residential hotels could allow solo-living rather than with roommates, supporting public health now while providing affordable housing options in the future.

2. Commuting: Localities should take steps to prevent cars from clogging the roads when people slowly return to offices while likely avoiding public transit.

  • Zoning rule changes could allow entrepreneurs to start home-based businesses.
  • Congestion pricing schemes require drivers to pay for road use to reduce rush-hour bottlenecks and keep traffic circulating throughout the day. The paper argues that tolls should be allowed on urban interstates where they are currently banned.
  • Easing restrictions on e-bikes and e-scooters, such as no longer requiring a driver's license to operate them in some states, could help spur demand for non-car transportation — as would installing wider sidewalks and separate bike lanes, or keeping permanent the "slow streets" some cities established during the height of COVID-19.

3. Permits and zoning: "Regulatory wiggle room" can go a long way to letting businesses and restaurants open in new locations or allowing residential development in commercial zones, the researchers argue.

  • Speeding up permitting would allow pop-up businesses or simply give existing business owners leeway in shifting business plans to stay open — such as alcohol takeout or additional outdoor seating space at restaurants.
  • Temporary tax incentives on small investments to properties could help cities prevent vacant and run-down buildings.

The bottom line: "As state and local policymakers deal with a huge budget crisis in the coming months, they may be more focused on more urgent problems than longer-term issues of land-use regulation," said Emily Hamilton, Mercatus Center research fellow and one of the authors of the papers.

  • "But as business owners in general are struggling to stay solvent, we may see longer-term reform efforts."

Go deeper

Aug 20, 2020 - Technology

Electric bikes see a pandemic-driven spike

Photo: Samuel de Roman/Getty Images

Electric bikes are seeing a major spike in sales that began even before the coronavirus pandemic but has sharply accelerated since March.

Why it matters: E-bike manufacturers are racing to keep up with the newfound demand as people, wary of crowded public transit and facing less congestion from commuting cars, adopt new ways of getting around.

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🚨: Heat wave brings scorching temperatures to Tokyo Olympics

📺: The Olympic events to watch today

🤸🏾‍: Athlete spotlight — When to watch Simone Biles, the G.O.A.T

🇺🇸: Jill Biden cheers on Team USA at Tokyo Olympics

🥇: The post-Phelps Games

👻: Behind the scenes at the COVID Olympics

💉 Exclusive poll: America's divided over the COVID Olympics

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage