Housing News Network, July 2016

Vol. 32, No. 2

From the Editor

I started working in earnest on affordable housing public policy in the early 1990s. Once the Sadowski Act became law, creating a dedicated financing resource for affordable housing, it was time to address the other half of the affordable housing delivery equation: land use planning. That immediately led me to study the Montgomery County “Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit” (MPDU) ordinance which was creating thousands of affordable homes economically integrated seamlessly into new developments. The MPDU ordinance is inclusionary zoning (IZ); an ordinance that requires market rate residential development to include a small percentage of affordable housing as a condition of development approval.

With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, I traveled across the nation conducting video interviews with local government administrators of inclusionary zoning programs. I also interviewed the developers in each of these communities to get their experience-based opinions about the local inclusionary zoning ordinance. Here’s the crux of what I discovered: (1) adopting an inclusionary zoning ordinance is no easy task; (2) the rubber hits the road when the ordinance is implemented; and most importantly, (3) if the affordable units created pursuant to the ordinance do not remain affordable in perpetuity, it’s probably not worth going through all the effort. The video I made showcased Davidson North Carolina, which required that 12% of all new housing was affordable and had those units deeded to a 99 year land lease program run by a local nonprofit.

All this inclusionary housing expertise led me to create the Florida Community Land Trust Institute in January of 2000. Community land trusts (CLTs) are dedicated to maintaining affordability in perpetuity: a perfect match for inclusionary zoning. The CLT can help with the adoption, implementation, and stewardship of all the units created pursuant to the inclusionary ordinance. There are over 400 inclusionary zoning ordinances throughout the nation and about 200 CLTs. And now, finally, there is national nonprofit bringing these two tools together—it’s called Grounded Solutions Network, and I’m proud to serve on the Executive Committee of its newly formed Board of Directors.

Grounded Solutions Network (GSN) will support the work of inclusionary zoning programs and community land trusts throughout the nation, but most significantly, GSN makes the connection between the two: CLTs and IZ. And while I feel some frustration that it is more than two decades since I produced the video on pairing CLTs with IZ, the timing for GSN is great!

The country is increasingly aware of the detriment that ensues when segments of society are prevented from accessing opportunity because of where they live. The oft-heard “no child’s future should be determined by his or her zip code” is now more commonly understood. Local land use tools that lead to the development of affordable housing in areas of opportunity, whether new development or redevelopment, coupled with permanent affordability is a clear path forward for overcoming the zip code challenge. We now have a national organization, Grounded Solutions Network, dedicated to this work. The Florida Housing Coalition’s Community Land Trust Institute is pleased to partner with Grounded Solutions Network to augment our work throughout Florida.