Inclusionary Zoning in California: Legal Questions and Issues

The quest to increase the supply of affordable housing has been an important public policy goal in California for decades. That goal, however, has proven to be elusive. Even during times of recession and depressed housing markets, housing in many parts of California has remained prohibitively expensive to moderate and lower income households. State and local governments have experimented with a wide variety of approaches intended to address this problem. One of the most prevalent of these is “inclusionary zoning.”

“Inclusionary zoning” is the common term for a distinct response by some local governments to the affordable housing conundrum, requiring new residential developments to include a specified percentage of new homes to be provided for rent or sale on restricted terms deemed “affordable” to households of below-average or moderate incomes. Advocates champion inclusionary zoning as a means to increase the number of new affordable housing units in a community without increasing financial burdens on municipal budgets and without asking the community at large to provide the subsidies that might otherwise be necessary to make new homes “affordable.”

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