A recent report by the RAND Corporation, Is Inclusionary Zoning Inclusionary? A Practitioner’s Guide, discusses the effectiveness of inclusionary zoning. The concept of inclusionary zoning is for the government to set aside homes in high income areas so people of lower to moderate incomes can afford to move into a area of higher opportunity. This report examines inclusionary zoning programs across 11 jurisdictions to see if their policies succeed in allowing citizens access to low-poverty neighborhoods and homes that are assigned to high-performing schools. This is important because, according to the report, a recent national study reveals that exclusionary zoning allowing low-density housing increases the chances that low-income households are blocked out of homes that are in neighborhoods with high opportunity schools by the cost of housing.
CPHA has recognized the importance of having mixed income neighborhoods and has pushed for inclusionary zoning laws to be passed in the City of Baltimore in the past. While there is an inclusionary zoning law in Baltimore City, there is room for improvement, as it is not as effective as others in our state, such as Montgomery County’s. The Montgomery County law is the oldest and largest continuously used inclusionary zoning law in the United States and from 1974 through 2010, the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program created 13,133 units of affordable housing.
Inclusionary zoning ordinances that include homeownership components have the potential to expose low income families to low poverty areas for extended periods of time, which according to the report “is important, since research indicates that a significant amount of time is required (in some cases, generations) for low-income populations to reap the benefits of low poverty settings.” One challenge to many inclusionary zoning laws is that they often do not serve families with the lowest incomes. Baltimore City’s law should be commended for both including homeownership, and establishing requirements that units created by the law serve a minimum percentage of the lowest income families. Unfortunately Baltimore’s law comes up short largely due to specific language in the ordinance that create a near-impossible funding impediment.