Monday, June 5, 2017

Richardson Needs Inclusionary Zoning

The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze scolds the Dallas City Council for trying to drive poor people to the suburbs by restricting low-income housing options in the city. He supports instead what is called inclusionary zoning.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made inclusionary zoning the centerpiece of an ambitious affordable-housing program. It’s basically a win-win bargaining tool for cities dealing with developers who want to build more units on one piece of land than the law allows.

We’re talking about zoning law, which is well within the purview of city councils to amend. In other words, the council can change the law at the stroke of a vote and give developers some or all of what they want. Under inclusionary zoning, before the council gives away the company store, it is required to ask for a little something in return for the people in the way of affordable-housing units.
I doubt this will be popular, but if Dallas wants to drive poor people out of their city, cities like Richardson ought to accommodate them.

During Richardson's recent election campaign, Mayor Paul Voelker gave a full-throated defense of Richardson's recent growth. He said apartments are a key component to Richardson's housing stock. But he never mentioned housing stock that's affordable to the working poor. Poor people need to live somewhere, too.

Richardson had two big opportunities recently in CityLine and Palisades to use win-win inclusionary zoning. The Richardson City Council approved rezoning in both cases, increasing the number of apartments allowed to be built. But the city council didn't demand anything for that gift — or at least nothing in the way of increasing the stock of affordable housing for the working poor. It's understandable, given the neighbors' opposition to even high-end apartment construction. Still...

It's past time for all cities, Dallas and Richardson alike, to quit handing over millions of dollars in subsidies to developers without asking that the developers deliver something in return like, in Schutze's words, "truly affordable, decent housing for honest, hardworking, rent-paying families."

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