Publications

  • Research Area: Zoning ×
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  • Building Environmentally Sustainable Communities: A Framework for Inclusivity

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided to include two key goals in all of its programs: encouraging sustainable communities and enhancing access to opportunity for lower-income people and people of color. This paper examines the relationship between these two goals through a literature review and an original empirical analysis of how these goals interact at the neighborhood and metropolitan area levels. We also offer policy recommendations for HUD.

  • Community Benefits Agreements: A New Local Government Tool or Another Variation on the Exactions Theme?

    Community benefits agreements (CBAs) are the latest in a long line of tools neighbors have used to protect their neighborhood from the burdens of development, and to try to secure benefits from the proposed development. This Article canvasses the benefits and drawbacks various stakeholders perceive CBAs to offer or to threaten, and reviews the legal and policy questions CBAs present. It recommends that local governments avoid the use of CBAs in land use approval processes unless the CBAs are negotiated through processes designed to ensure the transparency of the negotiations, the representativeness and accountability of the negotiators, and the legality and enforceability of the CBAs’ terms.

  • How Have Recent Rezonings Affected the City’s Ability to Grow?

    How Have Recent Rezonings Affected the City’s Ability to Grow? is the first comprehensive statistical analysis of the City’s rezoning strategy. The report examines the net impact of the 76 rezonings initiated by the City between 2003 and 2007.  It finds that, of the 188,000 rezoned lots citywide, 86% were rezoned to reduce or limit new development through either a downzoning or a contextual-only rezoning.  Nevertheless, the 14% of lots that were upzoned resulted in a net gain of 100 million square feet of new capacity citywide. The report explores the likelihood that this new capacity will be developed for residential use, and examines the characteristics of neighborhoods that gained new capacity and of those that lost capacity.

  • 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.

  • 31 Flavors of Inclusionary Zoning: Comparing Policies From San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Suburban Boston

    As housing costs have risen in the U.S. and federal subsidies for affordable housing programs have declined, inclusionary zoning (IZ) has become an increasingly popular local policy for producing low-income housing without direct public subsidy. The structure of IZ policies can vary in a number of ways; consequently, there is not yet a consensus about what policies constitute “true” inclusionary zoning. In this paper we compare the ways in which IZ programs have been structured in three regions in which it is relatively widespread and long-standing. Our results demonstrate that IZ programs are highly complex and exhibit considerable variation in their structures and outcomes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, IZ programs tend to be mandatory and apply broadly across locations and structure types, but attempt to soften potential negative impacts with cost offsets and alternatives to on-site construction. In the Washington DC area, most IZ programs are also mandatory, but have broader exemptions for small developments and low-density housing types. IZ programs in the Suburban Boston area exhibit the most withinregion heterogeneity. In this area, IZ is more likely to be voluntary and to apply only to a narrow range of developments, such as multifamily or age-restricted housing, or within certain zoning districts. The amount of affordable housing produced under IZ varies considerably, both within and across the regions. The flexibility of IZ allows planners to create a program that accommodates local policy goals, housing market conditions and political circumstances.

  • No Renters in My Suburban Backyard: Land Use Regulation and Rental Housing

    Academics and policymakers have argued that the ability of low- and moderate-income families to move into desirable suburban areas is constrained by the high cost of housing. Local zoning and other forms of land use regulation are believed to contribute to increased housing prices by reducing supply and increasing the size of new housing. Suburban restrictions on rental housing are particularly likely to reduce mobility for low-income families. In this paper, I employ an instrumental variables approach to examine the effects of zoning on the quantity and price of rental housing in Massachusetts, using historical municipal characteristics to instrument for current regulations. Results suggest that communities with more restrictive zoning issue significantly fewer building permits for multifamily housing but provide only weak evidence of the effects of regulations on rents. The lack of effects on rents may reflect the low level of multifamily development, while analysis is complicated by development of subsidized housing under the state’s affordable housing law.

  • 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.

  • Land Use Controls: Cases and Materials (Third Edition)

    A thematic framework that reveals the connections among the multiple discrete topics under land law, with attention to the factual and political context of the cases and the aftermath of decisions

  • Removing Regulatory Barriers: One City’s Experience

    The difficulty of developing housing in New York City is as legendary as its cost. The city has had a vacancy rate under 5% — the legislative threshold defining a housing “emergency”—for more than 55 years. More than one commission or blue ribbon panel has identified government regulation as one of the primary causes of the housing problem. Since 2000, however, an opportunity presented itself to finally make some progress in reducing the cost of housing construction. Removing regulatory barriers to housing development caught the interest of two mayors—Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg—and their respective housing commissioners.