By Jon Ostar, Contributing Columnist
On May 24, Oregon House Bill 3531 got its first public hearing in Salem. HB 3531 repeals the statewide prohibition on inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning is a practical tool that allows local jurisdictions to require that affordable housing units be built along with market-rate housing. In return, cities and counties can provide developers with variances and benefits, such as density bonuses, fee waivers and permit expedition in order to offset the cost of including housing units at affordable levels. The appeal of inclusionary zoning is that it allows local communities to customize a housing policy that meets the needs of their residents. This tool is an effective response to “exclusionary” development practices, which, combined with urban renewal policies, prioritize market-rate urban development at the expense of affordable housing.
Inclusionary zoning is not a new practice. The tool was first used in 1974 in Montgomery County, Maryland, where the inclusionary zoning ordinance has created over 10,000 affordable housing units over the past thirty years. The use of this tool is also widespread. It is estimated that there are approximately 400 local jurisdictions across the country using some version of inclusionary zoning policies. The popularity of the tool is due to its flexibility: from the number of affordable units required to the income levels which qualify for the housing, jurisdictions can tailor the tool to meet their local needs. It can work for urban, suburban and rural areas alike. The tool is also effective as an alternative housing creation opportunity that relies on a public-private sector partnership rather than on federal dollars or public subsidies. Continue reading