Forcing affordability

This LAT editorial argues in favor of inclusionary zoning: Los Angeles City Councilmen Ed Reyes and Eric Garcetti have worked for months to promote a citywide mandate that virtually every new housing development include some units that are affordable to people of low or moderate income. It’s been a tough sell. Many private developers remain dead set against it, and at public hearings this month they are hoping to pick up an ally: neighborhood councils. Developers and neighborhood groups more typically take opposite sides in planning battles, L.A.’s explosive growth having spawned a backlash of NIMBYism. What is expected to unite them on the proposed policy, known as inclusionary zoning, is many residents’ unease with low-income housing. They think of slums, crime and big public housing projects, not a house or condominium that from the outside looks no different from the higher-priced one next door. Los Angeles desperately needs housing that schoolteachers and police officers, waiters and nurse’s aides can afford. Many nonprofit groups tap government grants to build such housing and cover the costs of renting or selling at below-market rates. Inclusionary zoning would supplement those efforts, but without public subsidies. But as this Reason analysis of inclusionary zoning in the Bay Area points out, there is a big gap between intent and reality. While inclusionary zoning is a government response to an artificially restricted housing market, it tends to make the problem even worse by squeezing supply even more: In 45 Bay Area cities where inclusionary zoning was enacted, new housing construction decreased by 31 percent the year following the adoption of the policies. In the 33 cities with data for seven years prior and seven years following inclusionary zoning, 10,662 fewer homes were produced during the seven-year period after the adoption of inclusionary zoning.