By Kay Wilson-Bolton
November 12, 2003
There was a time when the real estate community would fall on it’s sword before it would support the idea of forcing a developer to provide for less than market rate housing in a new project.
Fortunately, its enlightened leadership realized that the best way to get the housing we know we need for California’s future is to first understand the concept. Here are some interesting bits of information.
Inclusionary zoning enables local governments to use zoning powers to develop affordable housing by requiring developers to build affordable housing in exchange for incentives that reduce the developer‘s project costs, i.e., reduced or deferred developer fees, density bonuses, land purchase assistance, reduced traffic/parking provisions, etc.
Affordable units in mixed income housing developments are physically indistinguishable from market rate housing, thus avoiding the stigma often attached to affordable housing.
Many existing subsidized housing programs have the effect of concentrating affordable housing in a certain areas of a community. Inclusionary zoning fosters mixed socieo-economic neighborhoods by integrating low/moderate income housing throughout the community.
This gives all members of society access to better schools, better commercial centers, good parks, and a higher quality of life often found in and around newer neighborhoods.
Mandating affordable housing, gives local governments another tool to meet the housing needs of specific lower income levels.
Resale controls, which often accompany inclusionary housing ordinances, ensure long-term affordability of units.
Furthermore, in-lieu fees and equity recaptures provide local governments with the revenue to purchase or build more affordable units or finance renter assistance programs.
Reasons to oppose it: It is unfair to place the burden of providing affordable housing solely on developers. The lack of affordable housing is a societal problem, and all of society should share the responsibility of addressing it.
Inclusionary zoning does not address the factors that contribute to the high cost of market rate housing, i.e., high land costs, lack of available sites, developer fees, cumbersome permitting process, etc. Inclusionary zoning adds costs to the market rate housing.
Inclusionary zoning places financial hardships on developers. Ultimately, they will no longer be able to provide housing in the community because the costs are too high, or they will pass the costs on to market rate buyers.
Resale price controls eliminate homeowners‘ ability to realize a reasonable profit on the resale of their home and therefore takes away the incentive for them to maintain their home. This makes it difficult to resell inclusionary units.
The cost of implementing an inclusionary zoning ordinance for a local government entity is high. Most local governments cannot afford the staff resources to administer a program.
In reality, the best way for a local government to provide affordable easier for its constituents, at all income levels, is to make it easier for developers to develop such housing with incentives such as reduced land costs and land restrictions, increased availability of housing sites, and reduced fees.
The practice of in-lieu fees is a tax on homeowners and renters.
Many jurisdictions collect in-lieu fees, but do not leverage the revenues to build more affordable housing. Instead, in some cases, the money is not spent to produce new affordable housing.
This issue is only pertinent, however, in areas where new housing is needed by people of all income levels.
Kay Wilson-Bolton is the owner of CENTURY 21 Ojai Valley and CENTURY 21 Buena Vista and brings a regional perspective to local issues. She can be reached at 340.5025.