Leveraging Affordable Housing Through Upzoning

Zoning Practice — April 2015

By Robert Hickey


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Cities and suburbs are finding new ways to enlist private developers as partners in addressing local affordability challenges. As communities relax height, density, and other zoning restrictions to meet rising demand for urban living, a growing number of localities are adopting policies that link "upzoning" with the inclusion of affordable housing.

The strong incentives and focused neighborhood application of many of these policies make them an appealing new housing tool for jurisdictions where political, legal, or market barriers have historically impeded the adoption of inclusionary housing. And in places that have already adopted jurisdiction-wide inclusionary housing, upzoned neighborhoods are proving to be a politically viable context in which to strengthen inclusionary housing requirements or incentives.

This issue of Zoning Practice profiles five localities that have adopted affordable housing incentives or requirements in upzoned areas and explores how market context, zoning context, and policy design may affect the success of inclusionary upzoning policies. Each profile discusses how the policy is structured and how effective it has been to date.


Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2015
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Robert Hickey
Robert Hickey is a senior research associate at the Center for Housing Policy in Washington, DC. His research examines a wide range of local housing policies to explore their potential for helping to address our nation’s pressing and emerging housing challenges. A major emphasis of Robert’s work is inclusionary housing and other strategies for fostering inclusive, mixed-income communities. Among his recent publications are: Inclusionary Upzoning: Tying Growth to Affordability (2014); Achieving Lasting Affordability through Inclusionary Housing (2014), published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy; and After the Downturn: New Challenges and Opportunities for Inclusionary Housing (2013). Robert’s research has been featured in The New York Times, Slate Magazine, CNN.com, The Huffington Post, and The Atlantic.com. He holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of California – Berkeley. Before the Center for Housing Policy, Robert worked as a planning and economic consultant at Strategic Economics, where he wrote extensively on policy and planning strategies for creating affordable homes in transit-oriented communities for clients such as the Enterprise Foundation and San Francisco Foundation. He has also served as program manager with the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, and Policy Director at Urban Ecology. Robert completed a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of California – Berkeley in 2003.