Historically, federal and state governments have been primarily responsible for increasing and maintaining the supply of affordable housing. But as budgets decrease, the burden has fallen more and more to local governments. Inclusionary zoning policies, which seek to reverse the negative, exclusionary effects of conventional zoning, are one tool local governments can use to increase affordable housing stock.
Courtnee Melton-Fant, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Memphis School of Public Health, recently published research in Housing Policy Debate that explores the growing trend of preemption as it relates to these inclusionary zoning policies.
Dr. Melton-Fant’s research used policy surveillance data produced by the Center for Public Health Law Research with the National League of Cities to examine the relationship between state preemption of inclusionary zoning policies and health outcomes among different demographic groups — particularly among people of color.
We asked Dr. Melton-Fant a few questions about her work.
Inclusionary zoning (IZ) laws are one such approach, and are intended to create affordable housing through collaboration between public and private developers. These laws create requirements and incentives for developers, such as unit size minimums and establishing income eligibility criteria. IZ laws counter preceding ‘exclusionary zoning’ policy where large-lot zoning is used to prevent low-income integration into rising developments. Contrary to the original intent, IZ laws have been criticized for creating potential financial disincentives to develop in low-income areas and increasing housing price inflation.
To combat this risk, states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California have added additional incentives such as density bonuses, expedited approvals, and fee waivers. These have been presented to developers as part of state ordinances and regulations. Under its Affordable Housing Act, Illinois seeks to create grants, mortgages, and loans to rehabilitate, develop, operate, and maintain housing for low-income and very-low-income families. The Act requires local governments to create affordable housing plans based upon their municipalities’ median incomes. For example, based upon population median incomes and housing values, the town of Evanston, Illinois is required to provide 4,993 affordable housing units to accommodate its population of 75,472 who have an area median income of $63,327.
The Cook County Health Department in Illinois just published a dataset to LawAtlas.org as part of a yearlong legal epidemiology project funded by the CDC Public Health Law Program and ChangeLab Solutions. The health department created a policy surveillance dataset tracking IZ laws in 10 municipalities across the country, concentrating on residential areas around Cook County and the Chicago Metropolitan area: Boulder, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Evanston, Illinois; Highland Park-Lake County, Illinois; Irvine, California; Lake Forest-Lake County, Illinois; San Diego, California; Santa Fe, California; Stamford, Connecticut.
One common provision of IZ policies are set-asides. These are ordinances that require developers to reserve a portion of the new development for low-income residents. Through its policy surveillance project, the health department found that nine of the jurisdictions have implemented mandatory IZ policies and six jurisdictions have established preferences for who can live in set-aside units. The percentage of set-aside required for low-income housing varies by jurisdiction – from 10 percent in two jurisdictions, up to 25 percent in one. Of the 10 jurisdictions studied, one (Stamford, Connecticut) doesn’t require any set-aside, and nine allow for alternatives to set-asides, such as fee-in-lieu (nine jurisdictions), land dedication (six jurisdictions), and alternative proposals (four jurisdictions). For those jurisdictions with fee-in-lieu alternatives, seven provide those payments to Affordable Housing Funds.
While extensive literature provides evidence for a positive association between levels of wealth in an area and the levels of health in that area, more research is needed to establish the efficacy of IZ laws. Governments are increasingly implementing relevant policies to combat the negative effects of gentrification and IZ policies could be part of the mix, particularly when used in conjunction with efforts to preserve existing community culture beyond property interest, as neighborhoods provide important social support networks for residents. “Revitalization without displacement” is a rising standard for preserving the positive economic benefits of gentrification without destroying communities through displacement. This policy advocates increasing the total population by filling vacancies and increasing housing densities and preserving community bonds. Experts consider ‘social mix’ to be a common good.
The ten policies in this dataset are just the tip of the iceberg, but they do offer an interesting, important look into the complexity and variation of these laws.
The week of Sept. 4-11, 2017 brought more housing-related news from the southeast in the wake of Harvey and Irma, and a few new resources. The latest in housing equity and the law, below:
Matthew Desmond writes a Housing State of the Union for the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty’s Pathways Magazine State of the Union issue. The report emphasizes the home-ownership racial gap, the relationship with the affordability crisis, and the reform that is needed for the mortgage interest tax deduction.
Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes about the need to find equilibrium between negative sprawl (such as in Houston) and NIMBYism (as experienced in San Francisco). He asks, “Why can’t we get cities right?”
Community Land Trust has a tool for community focused development.
Here is our weekly round-up of developments from the world of housing law and health. For the week of August 7-14, 2017:
HUD released its “Worst Case Housing Needs” report to Congress providing national data and analysis of the problems facing low-income renting families. CityLab offers a summary of the report here.
Is California’s housing laws making its housing crisis worse? Natalie Delgadillo at Governing analyzes the impact of the 1985 Ellis Act, which allows landlords to mass-evict tenants in order to leave the rental business.
A new study from University of Hawaii researchers finds homelessness and inadequate housing are major causes of unnecessary hospitalizations. Read more.
HUD is inviting paper submissions for a symposium on housing and health. Submissions will be accepted through September 30. Full details here.
A new Colorado law requires landlords to give 21-days notice of rent increases and lease terminations, via HousingWire.
Amy Clark at the National Housing Conference offers an explanation of YIMBYism — “yes, in my backyard” — via NHC’s Open House blog.
Below is our weekly review of news and publications related to housing law and equity. This week — July 17-23, 2017 — included news about zoning, segregation and lead poisoning:
Dr. Herbert L. Needleman died on July 18. Dr. Needleman was a pioneer in the study of the impacts of lead on children’s cognitive ability. Dr. Needleman’s research was a catalyst for wide ranging safety regulations. His obituary appeared in the Washington Post.
Jake Blumgart of PlanPhilly writes for Slate on the neighborhood that he grew up in, the persistence of microsegregation, and the importance of continuing to push for diversity in neighborhoods.
ThinkProgress published a series of articles about lead poisoning.
Toledo considers Rochester, NY and its success in reducing the incidence of lead poisoning as a model, via the Toledo Blade.
The National Apartment Association and the National Multifamily Housing Council released a new report on the need of affordable housing units to meet demand in US metro areas by 2030.
After a long battle between the Westchester, NY, and HUD, the department decided that zoning in Westchester is not exclusionary, although similar data was rejected multiple times in the past. Story via the Journal News.
We’re back after a few weeks’ hiatus because of summer holidays. There was much ado this week about the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), spurred by an article in the NY Times (third bullet down). Some of the conversation circling that article are captured in the subsequent bullets.
Here are the latest news stories in housing law and equity for the week of July 2-10, 2017:
Given the local context of housing policy, it is hard to find “one glove fit all” solutions. There is a growing consensus that zoning and land use regulations have made the affordability crisis in booming cities such as New York City and San Francisco worse. Could the policy that harmed one area saved another? Richard Florida of CityLab argues that land use regulation saved the Rust Belt.
Suburbia is still largely thought of as white and affluent, while inner cities are thought of as poor and black. A new book by Scott Allard of the University of Washington, called Places in Need, debunks misconceptions about suburban poverty. The author was interviewed by CityLab.
The United States spends $8 billion each year in tax credits to provide more affordable housing. A The New York Times article on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) suggests the program entrenches segregation on the lines of class and race.
On the other hand, the Washington Post covers a Stanford study (originally published in NBER in April 2016) that shows that building LIHTC affordable housing developments into low income neighborhoods can increase property values and lead to income and racial integration.
Daniel Hemel, an assistant professor at University of Chicago school of Law, responds to the New York Times article, in his own post here.
In May 2016, Daniel Hertz of City Observatory responded to the Stanford study, pointing at methodological issues and challenging the study’s conclusion, here.
Our latest round-up of the biggest stories in housing law and equity, for the week of June 12-18, 2017:
The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released the yearly State of the Nation Housing report. The report encourages a renewed national commitment to expand the range of housing options available.
A NY State Appellate Court struck down a chronic nuisance ordinance in Groton, NY, because of provisions that led to the eviction of those who seek emergency services. Story via Ithaca.com
The Out of Reach report and tool that was published a couple of weeks ago by the National Low Income Housing Coalition is getting press around the country for showing the gap between current wages and rents in most US cities. This article, from CNBC highlights the lack of affordable housing for minimum wage workers.
An opinion piece in The Hill makes, again, the case for investment in housing as an investment in childhood development and health.
79 people are presumed dead in the fire at Grenfell Tower in London. Some argue that the tragedy should be a red light for distressed public housing in the US.
The Philadelphia Inquirer posted its second article in its Toxic City series. This most recent article investigates lead-poisoned soil in the city’s River Wards neighborhoods. While lead paint is often considered the biggest danger to children, in these areas and others, the soil may be a great danger.
Affordable housing was the biggest topic of conversation last week, May 29-June 4. Here’s the week in review for housing equity and the law:
Vox published an interactive tool with “Everything you need to know about the affordable housing debate.” It covers issues from “What is affordable housing?” to gentrification, section 8, and zoning.
California’s State Senate and Assembly passed multiple laws to tackle the affordability crisis in California cities. Laws include more funding and relaxed regulation to build affordable housing units. Coverage via KQED.
Last week, HUD secretary Ben Carson said that, to a large extent, “poverty is a state of mind.” Today, Carson clarified that “state of mind” is just one component. Affordable housing advocates like Diane Yentel, of the National Coalition of Low Income Housing, responded that housing poverty is due in large to HUDs budget, not state of mind. Coverage via NPR.
The mortgage interest tax deduction is a controversial program that many critique as being beneficial mainly to the rich. Eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction could make houses much more affordable. CityLab offers a way to make homes 10 percent more afforable.
Five hundred people lined up to try to get an apartment in a 88 unit development in Philadelphia, shedding light on the city’s affordability and homelessness crisis. Coverage via Philly.com.
Our weekly update of the latest news in housing law for health and equity, for the week of March 20-27, including one piece written by our own Abraham Gutman:
Philadelphia city council held a hearing to evaluate the impact of the evictions on the lives of Philadelphians. One solution of for the eviction crisis is extending the right to counsel to housing courts. We, at the Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research, believe that evidence-based legal solutions are always worth considering, via Huffington Post
At a time when large budget cuts are looming over affordable housing programs, an audit of the largest affordable housing funder in Washington D.C., found inefficiencies, via NextCity
Some warn that reducing corporate taxes would lead to reduce use of the Low Income Housing Tax Credits
The proposed budget cuts to HUD are still the main story in the housing world. In Chicago dozens of affordable housing advocates took to the street to demand protection of affordable housing programs.
According to FiveThirtyEight, suburbanization in America is increasing in a faster rate.