Expanding Affordable Housing Through Inclusionary Zoning: Lessons From the Washington Metropolitan Area

Many jurisdictions are looking for new ways to house not only low-income residents, but also working families who fill critical positions in the labor market. One of the ways in which jurisdictions are meeting this challenge is through inclusionary zoning, a program that principally requires developers to include affordable homes when they build a particular number of market-rate homes. This paper examines the effectiveness of inclusionary zoning programs as tools for not only providing affordable housing, but also ensuring that such housing is built throughout a jurisdiction. Focusing particularly on the Montgomery County, MD ordinance and those found in three other Greater Washington area jurisdictions, this paper will: highlight the effectiveness of inclusionary zoning in several jurisdictions; examine the obstacles facing new and old ordinances alike; and identify where opportunities for change exist to ensure the program’s longevity and productivity. By illustrating how inclusionary zoning has been implemented in this area, we hope to inform those who want to implement inclusionary zoning in their jurisdictions, and to assist those who want to improve and preserve existing ordinances.