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What Is Inclusionary Zoning?


Inclusionary zoning is a land use planning tool that requires or encourages a certain percentage of new development to be affordable to low- and moderate-income households. It is one way to create or preserve affordable housing in rapidly gentrifying or high-cost areas. Inclusionary zoning can be mandatory (the city or county requires it) or voluntary (the developer chooses to do it). It is sometimes also called "inclusionary housing" or "inclusionary development."


There are a number of ways that inclusionary zoning can be structured. In some cases, a certain percentage of units in a new development must be set aside for low- and moderate-income households. In other cases, developers may be required to make a payment to a fund, referred to as “in lieu fees”, that will be used to build or preserve affordable housing elsewhere in the community. In other cases, developers may be given density bonuses or other incentives to voluntarily include affordable units in their projects.


Inclusionary zoning is often seen as a way to combat gentrification and rising housing costs in communities that are experiencing rapid economic growth. By requiring that new developments include some units that are affordable to low- and moderate-income households, inclusionary zoning can help ensure that these households are not priced out of the community as new development occurs. Inclusionary zoning can also create opportunities for mixed-income communities, which can provide social and economic benefits for all residents.


However, inclusionary zoning is not without its critics. Some argue that inclusionary zoning leads to the displacement of low-income residents, as developers may pass on their costs of to tenants in the form of higher rents. Others argue that inclusionary zoning does not actually result in the production of significant amounts of new affordable housing, as developers may choose to build only the minimum number of required units or may avoid areas with inclusionary zoning requirements altogether. And other studies show that inclusionary zoning has actually contributed to an overall increase in the cost of market housing.


Whether you support or oppose inclusionary zoning, there is no doubt that it is a controversial housing policy.


What do you think? Is inclusionary zoning an effective way to create and preserve affordable housing? Or, does it do more harm than good?


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WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

Contact your Bellingham City Council representative and tell them you support a proactive plan for sustainable growth.

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