The Case Against Restrictive Land Use and Zoning
This policy brief broadly lays out the drawbacks of restrictive land use, then reviews the current state of New York’s zoning and explains the need for state intervention.
Breaking Barriers, Boosting Supply
The Urban Institute’s "Opportunity for All" project aims to promote federal strategies that support strong and inclusive neighborhoods. In one of the project’s briefs, “Breaking Barriers, Boosting Supply,” Furman Center Faculty Director Ingrid Gould Ellen and the Urban Institute’s Solomon Greene advocate for the federal government to tie state funding opportunities to local affordable housing goals. They highlight the potential for national policy reform to incentivize communities to take action in improving land use and zoning regulations, ultimately allowing for more affordable housing and healthier, more diverse neighborhoods.
21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?
Single-room occupancy housing (SROs) used to be a readily available affordable housing type in New York City. During the second half of the 20th century, many SROs came to serve as housing of last resort, and mounting criticism of SROs led to laws banning their construction and discouraging their operation. Today, New York City faces a significant housing affordability crisis. In this context, it is worth considering whether the city needs an updated housing model that helps meet the need SROs filled in the last century. Here we analyze the benefits, risks, and challenges of reintroducing small housing units (self-contained micro units and efficiency units with shared facilities) in order to shed light on whether and how a new small-unit model could help meet the demand for affordable housing in the city today.
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.
Creating Affordable Housing Out of Thin Air: The Economics of Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning in New York City
This policy brief examines the economic potential of a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy to produce new affordable units tied to upzonings across New York City’s neighborhoods. It finds that a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy in New York City has the potential to produce affordable units in neighborhoods that already command high rent, such as East Harlem. But the city’s low-rent neighborhoods, such as East New York and Jerome Avenue, may not have sufficient market strength to justify high-density mixed-income development without other forms of subsidy. The study considers the role of 421-a, as well as key policy trade-offs including on-site vs. off-site, depth of affordability, and permanent affordability. View the white paper, press release, and briefing presentation deck.
Unlocking the Right to Build: Designing a More Flexible System for Transferring Development Rights
This report details the untapped potential for NYC’s transferable air rights program, a critical tool for high-density housing development in New York City. Using case study examples, the report outlines limitations to the city’s current TDR policies and suggests a policy approach that could unlock millions of square feet of unused air rights to help produce more affordable housing.
NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #3: Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning
In the 2013 NYC mayoral election, several candidates proposed implementing mandatory inclusionary zoning policy to increase the development or preservation of more affordable housing units. Such a policy may have significant impacts on the production of affordable housing as well as the residential housing market across New York City. This brief outlines the tradeoffs of a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy in New York City.
The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.
Silver Bullet or Trojan Horse? The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets in the United States
Many local governments are adopting inclusionary zoning (IZ) as a means of producing affordable housing without direct public subsidies. In this paper, we use panel data on IZ in the San Francisco metropolitan area and Suburban Boston to analyze how much affordable housing the programs produce and how IZ affects the prices and production of market-rate housing. The amount of affordable housing produced under IZ has been modest and depends primarily on how long IZ has been in place. Results from Suburban Boston suggest that IZ has contributed to increased housing prices and lower rates of production during periods of regional house price appreciation. In the San Francisco area, IZ also appears to increase housing prices in times of regional price appreciation but depresses prices during cooler regional markets. There is no evidence of a statistically significant effect of IZ on new housing development in the Bay Area.
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.
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.