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It’s Great that Inclusionary Zoning Improvements Are Moving Forward. There’s No Time To Lose

The District’s Inclusionary Zoning program (IZ) is ready to serve more low-income residents, based on improvements approved last year by the Zoning Commission, but that can only move forward if the DC Council takes a key next step. Today, the DC Council is holding a hearing on that step, legislation to implement the Zoning Commission’s changes. We hope this legislation moves forward without delay.

Under Inclusionary Zoning (IZ), new residential developments are required to reserve 8 to 10 percent of the new homes at below-market rents or sale prices. In return, the developments are allowed greater density than normally permitted by zoning rules. In this way, IZ harnesses DC’s hot real estate market to create affordable housing throughout the city, without using tax dollars.

Last year, the DC Zoning Commission decided that rents for IZ units in newly built housing developments should be lowered, to better serve somewhat lower income families. The new rules, effective June 5, 2017, require IZ units built as rental housing to be affordable to families with incomes at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $52,000 for a family of two. That works out to about $1,100 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. This will be a substantial improvement to the program, which under current rules had been mostly producing rental units for higher-income households, priced $1,600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment—which is not much different from private-market rents in most DC neighborhoods and out of reach for low-income DC residents.

It’s essential that the DC Council pass the legislation to align DC law with the zoning code before June 5th, when the new IZ rules take effect, or else the new rules can’t be implemented. Any delay will cost low-income residents opportunities for affordable homes, because any housing permits issued before the new legislation is adopted will be grandfathered under the old rules. There are many affordable units at stake: based on the pace of new residential construction, IZ should generate approximately 2,600 apartments over the next five to 10 years.

Thankfully, the Inclusionary Zoning program has strong support from?DC?policymakers.?Nine Councilmembers joined in introducing or co-sponsoring the legislation that’ll be discussed today, and the?Bowser administration?has placed a priority on?strengthening the administration of IZ. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has been working to revamp its administration of IZ program, which is?especially?important because?DHCD’s issuance of?revised administrative regulations?is?the?final step, once the legislation is passed, before the?new IZ?rules?can?take effect.

With?today’s hearing, Inclusionary Zoning is getting closer to fulfilling its potential. But policymakers must stay on track?and avoid delays. DC shouldn’t miss any chance to help more residents gain access to affordable housing.