Inclusionary zoning a potential help to Arizona’s affordable housing needs

Jan 31, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 10:11 am
(File Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
(File Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(File Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Rents and mortgages are on the rise in Arizona, and the population just keeps growing.

Experts say there’s a need for more affordable housing, and one option to increase that supply could be inclusionary zoning.

“Inclusionary zoning is a policy that either mandates or incentivizes developers to set aside a certain amount of new housing units for affordable housing,” said Allison Cook-Davis with ASU’s Morrison Institute.

In this case, “affordable housing” means housing costing 30% or less of someone’s monthly income, which can be hard for many low-income earners to achieve.

Inclusionary zoning policies have built more than 100,000 affordable units in thousands of jurisdictions around the country – but they can’t be mandated in Arizona.

“Arizona is only one of seven states that prohibits local governments from mandating inclusionary zoning,” Cook-Davis said.

The decision to ban mandatory inclusionary zoning policies in 2015 was largely preemptive.

“Arizona had not yet started to feel the impacts of housing affordability, but a lot of other states had,” said Alan Stephenson, director of the Phoenix Planning and Development Department.

“There were some concerns about trying to bring some of those other ideas here [to Arizona], so the state legislature wanted to prevent that.”

Despite that, there are still programs in Arizona for developers to propose building affordable housing of their own volition.

“There’s no prohibition against that because it’s a straight business transaction,” Stephenson said. “Does the developer wish to get the government’s money by meeting certain requirements? It happens all the time.”

However, mandatory inclusionary zoning still remains against the law.

Stephenson said that could change at some point if new members of the Legislature had different ideas about how to deal with the need for affordable housing.

“If it’s just about a great business climate and not balancing some quality regulations that create better quality of life for the people that live here, then it’s not going to be much of a place to invest in longterm,” he said.

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Inclusionary zoning a potential help to Arizona’s affordable housing needs