Why Inclusionary Zoning Alone Won't Solve the Housing Crisis

Building enough affordable housing to meet current shortages will take more concerted effort from policymakers.

2 minute read

April 11, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

"A 2020 report commissioned by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (MDHCD) reported a shortage of 85,000 affordable apartments in Maryland for families and individuals earning less than 30% of median income," writes Tom Coale in an opinion piece. Policymakers, argues Coale, cannot rely solely on inclusionary zoning to fix this problem. "Inclusionary zoning, however, was not created for the purposes of meeting affordable housing needs." While inclusionary zoning can help create socioeconomic integration in new developments, Coale says that "when efforts to integrate such communities take the place of meaningful efforts to create affordable housing, we all lose."

Coale explains that, because many developers can pay a fee in lieu of building affordable units, " inclusionary zoning has become a useful replacement for those who want to create the appearance of supporting affordable housing while doing very little to address the greatest needs of the housing crisis, which are units for low-income families." He also calls inclusionary zoning inefficient and disagrees with shifting the burden of providing affordable housing to private developers rather than public entities. Most importantly, Coale believes, "inclusionary zoning requirements raise housing prices on the whole" due to regulatory burdens.

While Coale writes that inclusionary zoning does serve an important purpose, policymakers should not forget about other mechanisms that boost affordable housing production and help the households that need affordable housing the most.

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