Obama Releases Affordable Housing Toolkit

Best Practices to Increase Affordable Housing Include Establishing Density Bonuses and Employing Inclusionary Zoning

The White House released the “Housing Development Toolkit” which highlights actions state and local jurisdictions can take to encourage affordable housing development. The white paper, released on September 26, 2016 argues that restrictive zoning contributes to high rents, exacerbates wealth inequality, and slows the U.S. economy.

According to the white paper, local barriers to new housing development, particularly affordable housing, include local land use restrictions, parking requirements, residential conversion restrictions, and slow permitting processes. The white paper provides a description of actions taken by jurisdictions to reduce these barriers. These actions include:

  • Establishing by-right development that reduces a developer’s need to seek zoning variances or other approvals which add to the length of time needed to complete a project;
  • Taxing vacant land to encourage development or finding ways to donate it to non-profit developers;
  • Streamlining or shortening permitting processes;
  • Eliminating parking requirements;
  • Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning;
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units;
  • Establishing density bonuses;
  • Employing inclusionary zoning; and
  • Establishing tax incentives for development of affordable housing.

Zoning regulations are usually seen as a local issue. But many mayors and developers are welcoming President Barack Obama’s engagement on this issue.

The Administration’s publication has received praise from economists and conservatives. Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, states, “When unnecessary barriers restrict the supply of housing and costs increase, then workers, particularly lower-income workers who would benefit the most, are less able to move to high-productivity cities. All told, this means slower economic growth.”

“The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets,” the report concludes, “is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions.”

Housing Development Toolkit

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