• The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets

    This study evaluates the impact of Inclusionary Zoning policies on housing markets in the San Francisco, Washington D.C. and suburban Boston areas. The analysis provides local decision-makers with valuable evidence on the impacts of IZ—a popular but often-controversial affordable housing policy.  The policy brief includes an update from February 2010, summarizing additional research that has been completed since the original publication in March, 2008.

  • The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets

    Many local governments in metropolitan areas with high housing costs are adopting inclusionary zoning (IZ) as a means of producing housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households without direct public subsidies. Critics charge that IZ ordinances impose additional costs on new development and may lead to reductions in supply and increases in the price of market rate housing. Advocates of IZ argue that any negative effects IZ might have on production can be mitigated through density bonuses or other cost offsets. Rigorous empirical study of the effects of inclusionary zoning ordinances has been hampered by the lack of accurate, timely data describing IZ and the land use regulatory schemes in which IZ programs fit. In this paper, we use panel data on the adoption and characteristics of IZ in the San Francisco and Washington DC metropolitan areas and the Boston-area suburbs to analyze which jurisdictions adopt IZ, how much affordable housing the programs produce and the effects of IZ on the prices and production of market-rate housing. The IZ programs among our sample jurisdictions are complex policies and exhibit considerable variation in their design, particularly across the three regions. We find that larger, more highly educated jurisdictions and those surrounded by more neighbors with IZ are more likely to adopt IZ. Whether and how many affordable units are produced under IZ depends primarily on the length of time IZ has been in place. The results from Boston-area suburbs provide some evidence that IZ has contributed to increased housing prices and lower rates of housing production. There is no evidence that IZ has constrained supply or increased prices among Bay Area jurisdictions. Limitations on the availability and quality of our data suggest that our results should be interpreted cautiously, but also suggest that IZ programs should be designed cautiously to mitigate possible negative impacts on housing supply.

  • The Housing Court’s Role in Maintaining Affordable Housing

  • Transferable Development Rights Programs: ‘Post’ Zoning?

    Transferable Development Rights (TDR) programs allow property owners to sell unused development capacity at their property and transfer it to another site, where it is typically used to increase the permitted size of a development. In recent years, New York City has enacted programs that use TDRs in increasingly sophisticated ways. These uses share three common attributes: an increased focus on directing the location and density at sites that receive development rights; the use of TDRs as an integral component of more comprehensive rezoning initiatives; and the creation of regulatory incentives that strengthen the market for TDRs. In this essay, we conclude that TDRs in New York can no longer be understood just as a creative mechanism to soften the effect of rigid zoning restrictions, but should also be recognized as a tool land use decision makers increasingly use in place of, or in tandem with, upzonings, bonuses, and other devices for increasing density.

  • Underused Lots in New York City

    Despite a robust real estate market for most of this decade, researchers and policymakers have observed that many areas of New York City have remained built out well below their zoning capacity. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of urban redevelopment by compiling and analyzing a large database of underdeveloped lots in the City. We identify about 200,000 such lots as of 2003 that were built out at less than 50% of their zoning capacity, representing about a quarter of all residentially zoned lots. Of these, about 8% were redeveloped during the subsequent four years. Our preliminary analysis reveals that underdeveloped lots are primarily made up of low density 1-4 family houses and are disproportionately located in poor and minority neighborhoods. We plan to use this analysis as the foundation for further analysis to assess whether market failures and regulatory and other barriers impede desirable development in mature cities.

  • Urban Land-Use Regulation: Are Homeowners Overtaking the Growth Machine?

    The leading theory about urban land-use regulation argues that city zoning officials are full partners in the business and real estate elite’s “growth machine.” Suburban land-use officials, in contrast, are thought to cater to the interests of the majority of their electorate— “homevoters.” A unique database regarding over 200,000 lots that the New York City Planning Commission considered for rezoning between 2002 and 2009 allows us to test various hypotheses suggested by these competing theories of land-use regulation. This analysis reveals that homevoters are more powerful in urban politics than scholars, policymakers, and judges have assumed.

  • Zoning for Affordability: Using the Case of New York to Explore Whether Zoning can be Used to Achieve Income-Diverse Neighborhoods

    This article considers the legal limitations on a locality’s ability to regulate land use, in order to evaluate whether mandatory inclusionary zoning can withstand legal challenge. It uses New York City’s recently adopted, ambitious, mandatory inclusionary zoning policy as a case study, and considers how the city might justify the policy in the face of both constitutional and state law challenges. The article concludes that New York City’s policy is likely to survive, but there are open legal questions that make it hard to predict with certainty how the policy will ultimately fare. Inclusionary zoning policies in other jurisdictions are likely to face similar challenges, and the experience of New York City will hold important lessons for other high-cost cities interested in using land use r egulation to foster economically diverse neighborhoods.