The rest of America is now flirting with inclusionary zoning

About 500 cities have already adopted some form of the policy

Nashville (credit:
Nashville (credit:

New York may not be so special after all. As home prices spike all across America, mid-size cities are now considering the same inclusionary zoning policies as their major league counterparts.

Atlanta, for instance, is deliberating policy that would mandate developers to reserve 10 percent of units as affordable housing in their proposed projects.

Meanwhile in New York, Mayor Bill De Blasio has already muscled in a housing plan that requires 25-30 percent of units in new developments be set aside for residents earning less than the area median income. And in L.A. voters will decide come November whether developers who seek zoning changes ought to dedicate up to 20 percent of all units as affordable housing.

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According to Bloomberg, about 500 American cities — from Portland to West Palm Beach — have adopted some kind of inclusionary zoning policy, which originated from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. in the 1970s as a way for government to create affordable housing and mixed-income neighborhoods without breaking the bank. In doing so, governments would subsequently allow developers to build more units than zoning codes allow.

But despite its growing popularity among smaller municipalities, inclusionary zoning is far from unanimously welcome. Even in New York, housing activists are skeptical that De Blasio’s policy will actually create a sufficient number of cheap apartments. Business leaders say developers will be burdened and build fewer units overall. And in the South, Republican-controlled state legislatures will likely balk in reflex, Bloomberg reported.

Median gross rent increased 6 percent nationally from 2001 to 2014, according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, but in that same period, the median renter household income fell by 9 percent. In places like Nashville, home prices have increased by nearly two-thirds in the past three years alone. [Bloomberg]Cathaleen Chen