Robert Hickey, senior research associate at National Housing Conference’s Center for Housing Policy
Inclusionary housing policies can help with a lot of the issues that many cities and towns struggle with these days, from the dwindling supply of affordable rental options in hot housing markets to the need for a fairer housing market that includes real location choices for lower-income households. These policies, which ask developers to include affordable homes in otherwise market-rate properties, are a tool without peer in helping lower-income households access neighborhoods with good schools and healthier environments. And as more development turns inward toward walkable urban places, inclusionary housing policies help reserve land for lasting affordability in tight, gentrifying or pre-gentrifying markets.
But legal, political and market barriers too often impede the adoption of inclusionary housing in many states.
This is why I’m so excited about the new and growing crop of inclusionary housing policies tied to upzoning referred to as “inclusionary upzoning.” These policies are an important part of the story of inclusionary housing’s spread over the past seven years to a total of 27 states plus the District of Columbia. According to a recent survey from NHC’s Center for Housing Policy, more than 60 new inclusionary housing policies have been added since 2007, putting the total at over 500 mandatory or voluntary inclusionary housing policies nationwide. Many of these new policies are linked to upzoning.
Inclusionary upzoning often works like this: when localities adopt new land use plans that allow taller height limits, greater development intensity, or new land uses such as housing in formerly industrial or commercial areas, they link new development options to requirements or incentives for lower-priced, income-targeted housing. In some localities, the principle is applied more broadly so that affordability requirements kick in whenever a developer seeks discretionary “zoning relief.”
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