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Is inclusionary zoning a good or bad thing for cities?

Today is Christmas Eve. It’s the season of giving. So I thought it would be appropriate to talk about affordable housing.

Yesterday, Mitchell Cohen – who is a real estate developer and the president of The Daniels Corporation – wrote an opinion piece in the Toronto Star talking about just that. It was called: A perfect storm for action on affordable housing.

Here’s a snippet that summarizes the things he believes we should be doing:

Municipalities across Ontario also have significant tools at their disposal to make a difference. To date, these tools have not been co-ordinated to achieve maximum bang for the buck. Property taxes can and should be waived not only for affordable rental homes but for affordable ownership homes as well. Additionally, cities can and should waive all development levies and other municipal fees for affordable rental and ownership housing.

Combined, these two measures provide municipalities with powerful leverage to implement inclusionary zoning — the most important tool in the affordable housing tool box. Inclusionary zoning on a city-wide basis creates a level playing field, an opportunity for a constructive partnership between municipalities and private sector developers to create both affordable ownership and rental homes within every new building approved for construction.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with inclusionary zoning, it’s essentially a zoning requirement to build a certain number of affordable units in any new construction project. It originated – as far as I know – in the US, but has been fairly controversial since the outset.

So today I thought we could have a discussion on the merits of inclusionary zoning. Do you think it’s a good or bad thing for cities? Is it really the most effective way to deliver affordable housing at scale? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below 🙂

I don’t have a strong view on inclusionary zoning, but I do believe that affordable housing and a mix of incomes is critical to cities and neighborhoods.

I do, however, wonder if it’s one of those things that seems to make a lot of sense, but actually has a bunch of negative externalities associated with it. Maybe the answer is to just prototype the idea and then iterate on it.

What do you think?

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