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Inclusionary Housing in the United States

Prevalence, Impact, and Practices

Emily Thaden and Ruoniu Wang

September 2017, English

Inclusionary housing refers to any programs or policies that require or incentivize the creation of affordable housing when new development occurs, including impact or linkage fees that generate revenue for affordable housing. Through the most comprehensive investigation on inclusionary housing conducted to date, this study identifies 886 jurisdictions with inclusionary housing programs located in 25 states and the District of Columbia at the end of 2016. The vast majority of jurisdictions with inclusionary housing are located in New Jersey (45 percent), Massachusetts (27 percent), and California (17 percent). These places have state-wide inclusionary housing policies or state policies that promote the local adoption of inclusionary housing policies. Many jurisdictions reported having more than one inclusionary housing policy; a total of 1,379 were identified in 791 jurisdictions on which this information was available.

Although comprehensive data on impact and program characteristics was not available for the majority of programs, the study did find that 373 jurisdictions reported a total of $1.7 billion in impact or in-lieu fees for the creation of affordable housing. Jurisdictions also reported creating a total of 173,707 units of affordable housing, which predominantly excludes additional units created with the $1.7 billion in fees:

    • 443 jurisdictions reported creating 49,287 affordable homeownership units;
    • 581 jurisdictions reported creating 122,320 affordable rental units; and
    • 164 jurisdictions reported an additional 2,100 affordable homes.

Due to missing data, these numbers substantially underestimate the total fees and units created by the entire inclusionary housing field.

Of the 273 inclusionary housing programs for which information on program characteristics was gathered, over 70 percent were developed after 2000, and 71 percent of programs applied to the entire jurisdiction. The most common program type was mandatory, and policies applied to both rental and for-sale development in 61 percent of programs. Approximately, 90 percent of all programs reported affordability terms of at least 30 years. The most common ways that developers could provide affordable housing was through on-site development in 90 percent of programs or through paying in-lieu fees or providing off-site affordable housing in roughly half of all programs. The most common incentives offered to developers were density bonuses (78 percent), other zoning variances (44 percent), or fee reductions or waivers (37 percent).

This study supports that inclusionary housing programs are an increasingly prevalent tool for producing affordable housing. Additionally, local inclusionary housing programs are: (1) prioritizing on-site affordable housing development, which may be an effective strategy to place affordable housing in neighborhoods of opportunity; and (2) ensuring long-term affordability, which is an effective way to maintain community assets and the affordable housing stock.