Inclusionary Zoning Programs: More Than a Hopeful Mechanism to Achieving Affordable Housing?

By: Alicia Philip
Blog Category: Housing/Entitlement Programs 

Inclusionary zoning (“IZ”) is a mechanism increasingly utilized to provide affordable housing in an economically integrative manner.[1]  IZ promotes economic and racial integration by enabling lower- and moderate-income residents to live in middle- or upper-income communities requiring a private rather than public subsidy, contrary to most housing programs.[2]  In exchange for development rights and zoning variances, residential developers are either mandated or encouraged to make a percentage of housing units within residential developments available to lower- and moderate-income residents by allowing homes to be sold or rented at below-market prices.[3]

Since inception of the first IZ program in 1974, in Montgomery County, Maryland, this flexible apparatus has been implemented in varying forms in many states and localities within the United States.[4]  More than providing a fiscally attainable method to achieving affordable housing, IZ can be held accountable for the subtle shifts towards much needed racial, economic, and social integration.[5]  Yet even with these triumphs, IZ programs still play a relatively low role in meeting the nation’s need for affordable housing.[6]

Despite this relatively low role in meeting the national need for affordable housing, the degree of access that IZ provides low-income residents to low-poverty and suburban neighborhoods and its potential to provide low-income families with extended exposure to low-poverty settings creates added beneficial force.[7]  These facts set it apart from other affordable housing programs.[8]  IZ programs notably—unlike any other affordable housing program—enable communities to retain their character while simultaneously providing affordable housing and access to amenities not often available in low poverty areas. [9]

Although laudable, the benefits of IZ programs cannot be presented in a vacuum.  IZ zoning continues to be a very controversial issue, criticized by opponents for shifting the costs and responsibility of providing affordable housing on others in society, namely the developers, extracting the upwardly mobile poor from the remainder of central city residents, and causing undue growth and decrease in the market values of homes in locations that would not otherwise experience it.[10]  These criticisms, however, appear to be de minimis when compared to the myriad of benefits that continue to result from inclusionary zoning programs.[11]

As such, inclusionary zoning programs can be laundered as more than just a hopeful mechanism to facilitate our Nation’s goals in addressing affordable housing concerns and of being more of a powerful and progressive mechanism to ensure that our communities achieve integration economically.[12]  With effective policy design choices,[13] residual benefits of IZ programs will manifest and have an enduring impact on critically looming societal issues: affordable housing and racial, economical, and social integration.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

[1] Heather L. Schwartz, Liisa Ecola, Kristin J. Leuschner & Aaron Kofner, Is Inclusionary Zoning Inclusionary? A Guide for Practitioners, rand Corporation, iii (Feb. 19, 2013)

[2] The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets: Lessons from the San Francisco, Washington DC and Suburban Boston Areas,, 2 (Mar. 2008),_DC,_Boston.pdf?phpMyAdmin=d3a4afe4e37aae985c684e22d8f65929.

[3] See Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at iii.

[4] See Timothy S. Hollister, Allison M. McKeen & Danielle G. McGrath, National Survey of Statutory Authority and Practical Considerations for the Implementation of Inclusionary Zoning Ordinances,, 5-10 (June 2007)

[5] Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at 7-11 (explanation of social inclusion and economic integration benefits).

[6] Id. at 7.

[7] Id. at 27-28.

[8] Id. at xiv.

[9] See Burchell et al., supra note 3.

[10] Id.

[11] See generally Policylink, Inclusionary Zoning, (last visited Mar. 14, 2013); Burchell et al., supra note 3; Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at xii-iii, 7.

[12] See generally Policylink, supra note 14.

[13] See generally Schwartz et al., supra note 1, at 21-26.

Sequestration’s Effect on Housing Choice Vouchers

By: Ryan Watson

Blog Category: Housing/Entitlement Programs

On March 1, 2013, President Obama signed an executive order calling for budget cuts across the board.[1] The United States government must cut $85 billion from the budget by October 1, 2013.[2] However, it is not clear from where exactly the entire $85 billion will be cut. We do know that the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, which provides rental assistance to low-income families, will be cut by $938 million.[3] In 2001, approximately 5 million families were on rental assistance; the number of families has since skyrocketed to 8.5 million families in 2011.[4] The estimation is that over 100,000 families will lose HCV assistance in the next year.[5] Of those 8.5 million families, a large portion are minorities living in urban environments. It seems ironic that President Obama was one of the driving forces behind the sequestration cuts and now seeks to make political gains on the backs of these same people.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

[1] Richard Cowan and Jeff Mason, New Budget Crisis Begins after Washington Fiscal Talks Fail, Reuters, available at

[2] Id.

[3] Douglas Rice, Sequestration Cuts Devastate Low-Income Housing Programs, Open Society Foundations, available at

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

HUD Codifies Disparate Impact

By: Joseph Squadroni
Blog Category: Housing/Entitlement Programs

Early last month, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) codified its prohibition under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) against housing practices  that have a disparate impact on members of certain protected classes, including race.  While not changing the substance of the law in any way—the disparate impact standard has been employed by HUD and the courts for over 40 years—the new rule brings about a formalistic change in the law with several byproducts.[1]

First, the rule will provide a clear and uniform national standard under which to apply the claim of disparate impact.  This means that the minor degrees of variation in the ways different circuit courts have applied the disparate impact standard (i.e. with respect to who bears the burden of proving a less discriminatory alternative housing practice) will be fully resolved.[2] The use of disparate impact claims has long protected home buyers from discrimination on the basis of race, making loans more readily available at lower costs to lower income families, many of whom are minorities.

Second, and more significantly, the new regulation will serve as a protection of the disparate impact standard should the Supreme Court decide to hear the case Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action.  The case involves a constitutional challenge to the use of disparate impact claims and many think that a conservative majority will rule against the standard.[3]  With the passing of the rule, HUD seeks to protect the standard by hoping the Court will defer to its judgment in interpreting the breadth of its enforcement power under the FHA.[4]

Critics of disparate impact rules range from those who argue that they force banks and creditors to ignore risk factors associated with granting loans out of fear of being prosecuted to those who are concerned that the new rule will lead to an increase in frivolous lawsuits.[5]  Given the long-standing history and use of the disparate impact standard, my opinion is that it is unlikely the disparate impact standard will be struck down entirely.  It is more likely that if any change occurs, it will be only a heightened showing of the disparate impact claimed. Or, perhaps, a doing away with the “less discriminatory alternative” provision.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

[1] Gregory D. Squires, Politics, HUD’s Disparate Impact Rule Praised by Fair Housing Advocates: Misunderstood by Critics, Huffington Post (Feb. 24, 2013),

[2] Id.

[3] Paul Sperry, CAMPS Real Time Legislative Information Under the Dome, HUD Formalizes ‘Disparate Impact’ Lending Rule To Sway Supreme Court, California Association of Mortgage Professionals (Mar. 9, 2013),

[4] Id.

[5] Squires, supra note 1.

Federal Budget Cuts Will Harm Housing Programs for Poor Americans

By: Andrea Petrou
Blog Category: Housing/Entitlement Programs

The Budget Control Act, a law passed in 2011, created $85 billion dollars in automatic budget reductions.  When the mandatory budget cut begins to take effect, agencies and programs that help the poor will suffer as a result. As agencies begin to administer the appropriate funds and carry out the respective cuts, aid will be denied to many low-income families that are in dire need of this extra money.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that there will be roughly about 125,000 individuals and families that will risk losing their housing and about 100,000 homeless will be removed from homeless shelters. Statistics on average annual incomes of those with public housing are alarming.  The average annual income of a public housing resident in Washington is a mere $12,911.

Sheila Crowley, the President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, stated, “anything you take out of HUD is going to reduce services and cut programs.” In addition, to the housing programs that will suffer the loss, other programs such as job training for the unemployed, will also suffer harsh consequences.   Although these budget cuts are in their beginning stages, the country will have to wait to see the negative effects on housing for the poor. However, it is alarming that those who will suffer are those who need the help the most, especially those who make insufficient annual incomes.


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


Annie Lowrey, As Automatic Budget Cuts Go Into Effect, Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard. N.Y.Times, March 3, 2013, at A13, available at

Low-Income Households Get Relief From Hurricane Sandy

By *Jennifer Rutter

Blog Topic: Housing/Entitlement Programs

Low-Income Households Get Relief From Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy produced devastating affects on hundreds of thousands of people, but its aftermath has had a greater impact on low-income households.  Of the Sandy-related federal aid claims made by New York and New Jersey households, 43% had an income less than $30k while 68% of renters that made FEMA claims were low-income.[1]

Fortunately, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has acted quickly and released the first round of the $16 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 designed to restore housing and revitalize the economy in the regions most impacted by Hurricane Sandy.[2]

New Jersey’s Housing Voucher Program, funded by HUD, is providing displaced low-income households with vouchers to assist people in obtaining a permanent residence, which has been especially hard for renters.[3]  Homeowners in New Jersey may also be eligible for a mortgage forgiveness if they are unemployed or underemployed.[4]

Additionally, affected homeowners with Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac mortgages that are facing foreclosure have been given an additional 90 days and the FHA has agreed not to evict persons in impacted areas through April 30, 2013.[5]

Although income levels made no difference to Hurricane Sandy’s path, the government has recognized the higher necessity among the impacted low-income households and acted accordingly.


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.