Inclusionary Zoning: The Good and the Bad

New research shows that affordable housing mandates usually don't raise housing costs, but often fail to benefit benefit the lowest-income families.

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June 10, 2016, 11:00 AM PDT

By Elana Eden


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Mark Schwettmann / Shutterstock

Research from the National Housing Conference's Center for Housing Policy clarifies the impacts of inclusionary zoning policies, which require developers to include some affordable units in their buildings. Brentin Mock from CityLab summarizes the major findings.

The good: In most cases, inclusionary zoning requirements haven't driven housing costs up. Nor have they slowed housing production. Those findings challenge the argument of some developers who oppose affordable-housing mandates, especially in California.

The bad: Inclusionary zoning policies have largely failed to create affordable housing for the lowest-income households—and most policies aren't designed to target them. That can lead to a lack of support for programs:

After all, if it’s going to be called “inclusionary zoning,” it should include those who are most in need of housing. People actually need to be able to buy into the properties in order to buy in to the policy.

Pittsburgh is considering ways to address this problem, which Washington, D.C. also dealt with recently. San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and more cities throughout the United States have also recently taken up questions around inclusionary zoning.

The research also notes that the success of these policies is influenced by factors that can vary by city and over time, like the strength of an area’s housing market or a policy's compatibility with state law.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in CityLab

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