Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Inclusionary Housing

John Nolan and Jessica Bacher have an article on-line about inclusionary housing policies.  Here's the description:

This article explores the expansive legal authority that local governments in many states have to meet housing needs directly by providing for the production of new affordable homes. There is not a great deal of scholarship on the subject as we approach it. The emphasis in the academic literature in the field of affordable housing is on top down, systemic, or theoretical solutions: urging reforms in federal and state finance programs, imploring courts to penalize localities that engage in exclusionary zoning, describing in detail a variety of inclusionary zoning techniques; or explaining relevant theories or the economics of the issue of affordable housing. 

Our topic focuses instead on what individual municipalities can do to bridge the widening gap between income and housing costs. Like the impacts of climate change, which many municipalities are beginning to address, the housing crisis is, in the first instance, a local phenomenon; it fails to provide for local workers, prejudices the local economy, forces out seniors, and is beyond the reach of young families—the workers in local businesses and the moms, dads, daughters, and sons of local residents.  Our article illustrates a full range of tools and strategies that the law and established practice place in the hands of local citizens and their elected officials to meet local housing needs. The information contained in this article gives them something to do while waiting for systemic, top down, and more theoretical solutions to work.

We describe a “local inclusionary housing program” and outline ten steps that local governments and leaders can take to create and implement such a program.  These steps include:

    1. conducting a survey of housing needs within the locality and its immediate region;
    2. creating a citizens’ task force of leaders committed to meeting these housing needs;
    3. establishing an advisory board of landowners and developers to help design economically and politically workable strategies;
    4. adopting a housing component of the local comprehensive plan that contains a strategy for meeting defined housing needs;
    5. adopting one or more of a variety of inclusionary zoning techniques;
    6. identifying land and buildings that can be dedicated to affordable housing projects;
    7. creating a local non-profit housing corporation whose corporate objective is the implementation of the local housing strategy;
    8. providing financial incentives directly to projects that meet housing needs;
    9. using a variety of outside public and private financial techniques; and
    10. adopting local housing regulations that ensure the success and continued affordability of all housing produced under the inclusionary housing program.

This approach to meeting housing needs turns the traditional approach to solving the nation’s housing crisis on its head.  While recognizing limitations in local capacity, it does not regard local governments as parochial and exclusionary obstacles to the accomplishment of federal, state, or judicial housing goals.  Instead, it is based on respect for local land use traditions, the existence of extensive municipal legal authority to solve local problems, and recognition of the great diversity of local circumstance. 

The article ends with a modest proposal for a state housing law that provides adequate legal authority for inclusionary housing initiatives and assists and rewards localities that commit themselves to using that authority effectively. 

Ben Barros

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The inclusionary housing regulatory discussion often seems to center around affordable "new" housing. Which seems like an incorrect starting point considering that the vast majority of cities in the U.S. (excluding some of the densest urban areas like S.F. and NYC) have a substantial inventory of existing homes that are ripe for renovation into affordable housing.

And, more importantly, they are located within much closer proximity to existing work centers than new exurban construction.

One key would be to make reasonable changes to building codes that add unnecessary costs to renovating existing buildings.

Posted by: Chad Emerson | Oct 1, 2007 8:11:40 AM

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