Inclusionary zoning & housing policies

Evidence Rating  
Some Evidence
Evidence rating: Some Evidence

Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

Health Factors  

Inclusionary zoning (IZ) & housing policies require developers to reserve a portion of housing units for residents with low incomes, often with restrictions on resales that specify purchase by households with low or moderate incomes. Inclusionary zoning & housing policies may be based on mandatory requirements or development incentives, such as density bonuses, expedited permits and approvals, relaxed design standards, or fee waivers or reductions. Units created via IZ are available to homeowners and renters and are typically part of multifamily developments1, 2, 3, 4.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased access to affordable housing

  • Increased access to quality housing

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased neighborhood socio-economic diversity

  • Increased asset accumulation

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that inclusionary zoning (IZ) & housing policies increase access to and production of quality, affordable housing for households with low and moderate incomes, especially in urban areas with strong housing demand4, 5, 6, 7. Available evidence from case studies and IZ policy analysis suggests such policies may increase the supply of quality, affordable housing available to rent and to purchase for households with low and moderate incomes1, 8, 9, 10, and ensure long-term affordability of housing stock1, 8, 11. Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects4, 12, 13.

IZ policies appear most effective with incentives for developer participation6, 7, 9 and when implemented as part of a multi-component affordable housing strategy4. Mandatory IZ policies are more effective than voluntary policies4, 14; however, most states with mandatory policies do not currently have tools to support policy enforcement15.

The amount of affordable housing produced by IZ policies varies with how long the policy has been in place16, whether it offers density bonuses or other incentives, and the types of projects eligible for consideration4. IZ policy design features such as long-term affordability requirements influence the magnitude of the effect IZ policies can have on the supply of affordable housing and the reduction of concentrated poverty11. Some IZ policies may include homes for purchase, offering families with low incomes the opportunity to build wealth through homeownership1, 12. IZ policies that support homeownership may help reduce the racial wealth divide, since a significant part of the racial wealth divide at all income levels relates to lower homeownership rates and lower home values for people of color17, 18, 19. In larger cities with high cost housing markets such as Boston, San Francisco, and New York City, IZ policies may be associated with increased housing costs and lower production12, 20.

Cities with IZ policies appear to have a larger proportion of multifamily housing units, higher prices for single family units, and smaller single family houses than cities without IZ policies4, 21. IZ policies may also minimize adverse effects of gentrification5, 22, 23, such as displacement of families with low incomes24. Neighborhoods with IZ units appear to be more racially and socio-economically diverse than neighborhoods without IZ homes12, which suggests IZ policies may help reduce residential segregation. Residential segregation increases racial disparities in housing stability, homeownership, and property values17. IZ policies that provide incentives for developers to include public spaces in their plans (e.g., plazas or walkways) may increase access to privately owned public space and increase mixed-use development25. IZ policies do not appear to change the number of housing projects started21, 23.

To retain affordable housing units over time, IZ policies restrict resale amounts which, in turn, limits tax revenue potential15 and sale proceeds for those units3, 26. Additional evidence is needed to determine the effect of IZ policies on the cost of residential development overall7.

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

As of late 2016, there are 866 jurisdictions with inclusionary zoning (IZ) & housing policies across 25 states and Washington DC; most policies are in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California8, 27 and the majority of policies are mandatory28. New Jersey, Maryland, and Oregon have state mandated policies and Massachusetts has both a mandatory and a voluntary, incentive-based policy15.

Many cities have local IZ policies. As of 2019, Boston, MA; San Diego and San Francisco, CA; and Washington DC have mandatory inclusionary zoning policies29, 30, 31, 32. IZ is used throughout all five boroughs of NYC; the number of affordable units varies by targeted income, location, and if the affordable units must be in the same building as the market-rate units or located off-site33. Burlington, VT has a mandatory policy, which is administered by the Champlain Housing Trust, a community land trust34, 35. Chicago’s IZ policy allows developers to pay fees rather than build affordable housing; revenue is then added to the City of Chicago Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund to build or rehabilitate affordable housing, or to the city supported rental assistance program36.

Implementation Resources

MA EEA-IZ - Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (MA EEA). Smart growth/smart energy toolkit: Inclusionary zoning.

IHI - Innovative Housing Institute (IHI). Resources. Baltimore, MD.

ChangeLab-Housing toolkit - ChangeLab Solutions. Preserving, protecting, and expanding affordable housing: A policy toolkit for public health. 2015.

ULI Building healthy places - Urban Land Institute (ULI) Building Healthy Places Initiative. Building healthy places toolkit: Strategies for enhancing health in the built environment.

LISC-Affordable housing - Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Helping neighbors build communities: Affordable housing.

LHS - Local Housing Solutions (LHS). To enhance local affordability and foster inclusive communities. New York University, Furman Center and Abt Associates, Inc.

Furman Center-Land use - Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. Research area: Land use. New York University, Furman Center.

Furman Center-Affordable housing - Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. Research area: Affordable & subsidized housing. New York University, Furman Center.

AIC-IZ - All-In Cities, an Initiative of PolicyLink. All-In Cities Policy Toolkit: Inclusionary zoning.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 Dawkins 2017* - Dawkins C, Jeon JS, Knaap GJ. Creating and preserving affordable homeownership opportunities: Does inclusionary zoning make sense? Journal of Planning Education and Research. 2017;37(4):444-456.

2 Kontokosta 2014* - Kontokosta CE. Mixed-income housing and neighborhood integration: Evidence from inclusionary zoning programs. Journal of Urban Affairs. 2014;36(4):716-741.

3 Gibbons 2015 - Gibbons LK. Considering the cost of inclusionary zoning and resale restrictions in the District of Columbia. Policy Perspectives. 2015;22:1-8.

4 Mukhija 2015* - Mukhija V, Das A, Regus L, Tsay SS. The tradeoffs of inclusionary zoning: What do we know and what do we need to know? Planning Practice & Research. 2015;30(2):222-235.

5 US HUD-Levy 2012 - Levy DK, Franks K, Bertumen K, et al. Expanding housing opportunities through inclusionary zoning: Lessons from two counties. Washington, DC: US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Policy Development and Research and Urban Institute; 2012.

6 Mukhija 2010* - Mukhija V, Regus L, Slovin S, Das A. Can inclusionary zoning be an effective and efficient housing policy? Evidence from Los Angeles and Orange counties. Journal of Urban Affairs. 2010;32(2):229-52.

7 Read 2009* - Read DC. The structure and potential economic effects of inclusionary zoning ordinances. Real Estate Issues. 2009;34(2):1–9.

8 Thaden 2017 - Thaden E, Wang R. Inclusionary housing in the United States: Prevalence, impact, and practices. Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; 2017.

9 Schuetz 2009* - Schuetz J, Meltzer R, Been V. 31 Flavors of inclusionary zoning: Comparing policies from San Francisco, Washington, DC, and suburban Boston. Journal of the American Planning Association. 2009;75(4):441-56.

10 Brookings-Brown 2001 - Brown, KD. Expanding affordable housing through inclusionary zoning: Lessons from the Washington metropolitan area. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution; 2001: Discussion Paper.

11 RAND-Schwartz 2012 - Schwartz HL, Ecola L, Leuschner KJ, Kofner A. Is inclusionary zoning inclusionary? A guide for practitioners. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2012: Technical Report 1231.

12 Urban-Ramakrishnan 2019 - Ramakrishnan K, Treskon M, Greene S. Inclusionary zoning: What does the research tell us about the effectiveness of local action?. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2019.

13 Sturtevant 2016 - Sturtevant L. Separating fact from fiction to design effective inclusionary housing programs. Inclusionary housing: A series of research & policy briefs. Washington, DC: National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy; 2016.

14 von Hoffman 2006 - von Hoffman A, Belsky ES, Lee K. The impact of housing on community: A review of scholarly theories and empirical research. Cambridge: Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), Harvard University; 2006:W06–1

15 Karki 2015* - Karki TK. Mandatory versus incentive-based state zoning reform policies for affordable housing in the United States: A comparative assessment. Housing Policy Debate. 2015;25(2):234-262.

16 Schuetz 2011 - Schuetz J, Meltzer R, Been V. Silver bullet or trojan horse? The effects of inclusionary zoning on local housing markets in the United States. Urban Studies. 2010;48(2):297-329.

17 PRRAC-Haberle 2021 - Haberle M, House S, eds. Racial justice in housing finance: A series on new directions. Washington, DC: Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC); 2021.

18 Urban-McCargo 2020 - McCargo A, Choi JH. Closing the gaps: Building black wealth through homeownership. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2020.

19 Kaplan 2007* - Kaplan J, Valls A. Housing discrimination as a basis for Black reparations. Public Affairs Quarterly. 2007;21(3):255-273.

20 Furman Center-Madar 2015 - Madar J. Creating affordable housing out of thin air: The economics of mandatory inclusionary zoning in New York City. Housing for an inclusive New York: Affordable housing strategies for a high-cost city. New York University, Furman Center; 2015.

21 Bento 2009 - Bento A, Lowe S, Knapp GJ, Chakraborty A. Housing market effects of inclusionary zoning. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research. 2009;11(2):7-26.

22 CDC-Gentrification - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health effects of gentrification.

23 SCANPH 2005 - Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH). How does inclusionary housing work? A profile of seven southern California cities. Los Angeles: Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH); 2005.

24 Damewood 2011 - Damewood R, Young-Laing B. Strategies to prevent displacement of residents and businesses in Pittsburgh's Hill District. September 2011.

25 Yoon 2015* - Yoon H, Srinivasan S. Are they well situated? Spatial analysis of privately owned public space, Manhattan, New York City. Urban Affairs Review. 2015;51(3):358-380.

26 Dulchin 2013 - Dulchin B, Gates M, Williams B. Housing policy for a strong and equitable city. Toward a 21st Century City for All. Center for Urban Research, The Graduate Center at City University of New York; 2013.

27 AIC-IZ - All-In Cities, an Initiative of PolicyLink. All-In Cities Policy Toolkit: Inclusionary zoning.

28 Stromberg 2016 - Stromberg B, Sturtevant L. What makes inclusionary zoning happen? Inclusionary housing: A series of research & policy briefs. Washington, DC: National Housing Conference; 2016.

29 Boston-IZ - City of Boston. Inclusionary development policy: 2019 update.

30 San Diego-IZ - City of San Diego. Inclusionary housing.

31 San Francisco-IZ - San Francisco Planning. Inclusionary affordable housing program.

32 DC DHCD-IZ - Washington, DC, Department of Housing and Community Development (DC DHCD). Inclusionary zoning (IZ) affordable housing program.

33 Furman Center-NYC housing - Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. State of New York City’s subsidized housing in 2017. New York University, Furman Center; 2018.

34 Burlington-IZ - City of Burlington, VT. Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) program.

35 CHT-VT - Champlain Housing Trust (CHT). Northwestern Vermont-based community land trust (CLT).

36 US HUD-Evidence matters IZ 2013 - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Evidence Matters: Inclusionary zoning (IZ) and mixed-income communities. 2013.

Date Last Updated