Inclusionary Zoning Victory

IZ_screencap.jpgToday, a resolution I championed that will strengthen our efforts to build permanent affordable housing in all wards of the city was unanimously approved by my colleagues on the D.C. Council. The resolution sends a strong message that we need to amp up a housing program known as Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) so that middle-income residents--teachers, administrative assistants, nurses, and chefs, for example--can live in neighborhoods with access to good transit, schools, and retail that they otherwise couldn't afford.

I want to thank Chairman Mendelson for recognizing the importance of this issue, and moving so quickly to schedule a hearing and move this resolution toward Council approval. Special thanks as well to the Committee of the Whole staff for great work on its report; to my chief of staff, Kitty Richards, for shepherding the process with grace and wit; and to IZ's biggest booster, Cheryl Cort, of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, for answering any and all questions.

I also want to thank my nine co-introducers for being champions as well: Chairman Mendelson, and Councilmembers Alexander, Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Evans, Grosso, Nadeau, and Orange. 

The reason I like IZ so much is that it puts affordable housing throughout the city and doesn't really spend any additional taxpayer dollars to do it. It helps create economic diversity, and it does not isolate affordability to only certain areas of the District. I am so thrilled that IZ is seen by our new Planning Director Eric Shaw as a "key tool for fulfilling the District's vision of achieving and sustaining a diverse, vibrant, and inclusive city."

IZ applies to all new rental or condominium buildings with more than 10 units or renovations to current buildings that increase the building size by 50 percent. In exchange for what's known as a density bonus--being allowed to build more units--the buildings are required to have a certain percentage of units affordable to moderate income residents. IZ has been in place for several years now, and it is time to ensure that we are making the most of this program. This resolution sends a strong message to the Office of Planning and the Zoning Commission that the Council supports IZ and wants to see it improved -- to build more units, at more-affordable prices, and with more efficient administration.  

The original IZ program began with a Council resolution. Now the ball is in the court of the Office of Planning and the Zoning Commission to make the program more effective. Thanks to the robust support of the Council, I believe the resolution is already having an effect: The Office of Planning has committed to sending a comprehensive analysis to the Zoning Commission this summer, and I hope to see an action from the Zoning Commission later this year. 

Over the past few months, the Council has been focused on affordable housing through the budget process. I am especially proud of the Council's work to put $100 million next year into the Housing Production Trust Fund, fully fund the Interagency Council on Homelessness strategic plan to end homelessness, and increase tenant vouchers through the local rent supplement program by $5 million above what the mayor requested.

Now it is important we spend this money wisely and judiciously, creating units our residents can live in.

Inclusionary zoning is another tool in that toolbox. And it is unique in a certain way. As Leslie Steen of Vice President of Wesley Housing Development Corp., said, "Inclusionary Zoning is a tool that can spread affordable housing across the city in a manner that other programs do not and probably will never be able to do so." 

Thanks again to my council colleagues, and I look forward to the great work of the Office of Planning and the Zoning Commission to make Inclusionary Zoning as robust and impactful as possible.




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