The intended goals of zoning ordinances, like those of building codes, are to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the community and, as well, to maintain aesthetics and property values. However, existing ordinances are really tailored to regulate existing conventional housing. Consequently they may inadvertently prohibit earth-sheltered houses or at least make it more difficult to construct them. This is ironic because many earth-sheltered homes achieve the zoning goals better than conventional housing can.
Zoning ordinances often prescribe uniformity of size, placement and other design criteria in order to ensure an aesthetically pleasing environment. Though encouraging uniformity reduces potential threats to property values, it also discourages positive and creative alternatives, like earth-sheltered housing. Normally, though, if there is a good reason to build in violation of a zoning ordinance, a variance can be sought. Local zoning boards, however, may be reluctant to grant variances if there is any likelihood of neighborhood opposition. Since such opposition is usually quite subjective, so too is the variance process. Hence, it is generally more desirable to make direct modification of ordinances which prohibit or discriminate against earth-sheltered housing than to seek individual variances subject to community approval.
It has been in the effort to obtain financing that the greatest impediments to earth-sheltered construction have arisen. Lenders are less eager to make loans for earth-sheltered than other housing and often flatly oppose earth-sheltered construction; many are unfamiliar with the concept. To obtain financing, then, the interested owner or builder must do his homework. The informed lender, provided with as much information on the project as is available, is more able and more likely (considering the advantages of earth-sheltered construction) to provide the loan.