Why I don’t like inclusionary zoning

December 28, 2010

Inclusionary zoning is a hot item among urban planners today, and is often seen as a solution to residential segregation and high housing costs. Exact implementations vary, but the general idea is that developers of multiunit housing projects are encouraged to set aside a certain percentage of their units, generally raging from 10-30%, but sometimes even more, as “affordable housing” units. In other words, some proportion of the units are under rent controls to the point where they must be rented (or sold) at a loss by the developer. Sometimes the schemes are voluntary and give developers density bonuses, sometimes developers can pay a fee instead of setting aside units. The exact proportion of units that must be set aside and loss developers take on each unit also varies. As you can imagine, I’m not in favor of this system, but it’s a complicated issue, so this is going to be a long article.

While proponents are right that traditional zoning is indeed “exclusionary,” the name “inclusionary” always struck me as a little funny – you’d think the opposite of zoning out poor people through density requirements would be not zoning out poor people through density requirements, but instead IZ is essentially a form of rent control.

Proponents claim that inclusionary zoning an effective way to create affordable housing and income/racial diversity in otherwise segregated neighborhoods, but I see many negative unintended consequences. The fundamental problem that I see is that while it definitely benefits those who are lucky enough to get affordable units (i.e., those with the most experience with the welfare state, who know how to work the system), it has negative net consequences for every single other person in the housing market.

Read remainder of the story at Market Urbanism.

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About Bob Voelker

Head of the Munsch Hardt (Dallas law firm) Hospitality & Mixed Use Development Group, and former developer of affordable housing. I'm i
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