There are a number of options for states that do not allow cities to use rental inclusionary zoning. This situation usually arises because the legislature or a court has decided that inclusionary zoning is a form of rent control.
At least six states (California, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin) do not allow cities to require developments to provide rental inclusionary homes. This has created a situation where condominium projects must provide affordable housing, but not rental developments. The specifics are different in all states so it is important to check with local attorneys, but there are a number of strategies that other cities have used.
Charging Impact Fees
Many cities have adopted an affordable housing impact fee. Impact fees require that rental developers contribute money to an affordable housing trust fund. The size of the impact fee can vary dramatically, from under $1 a square foot to over $20 a square foot depending on local conditions. (Some jurisdictions charge a set price per unit, rather than per square foot.)
Before this can be done, a nexus study must be conducted.
Impact fees work well in areas with high home prices because the nexus study shows a strong connection. Cities with lower housing costs will only be able to legally justify a more modest impact fee level.
Some cities have set the impact fee as the default requirement and allowed developers to choose to provide rental units as an alternative. Because the default option is paying the fee and developers are choosing to provide the units, it may be more likely to withstand a legal challenge. When implementing the impact fee, it is a good practice to offer developers flexibility as well as incentives to participate. This will both make development more likely to happen and also reduce the likelihood of a successful court challenge.
In some states, it is possible to require affordable units when developers voluntarily enter into Development Agreements – generally as a result of receiving some specific public benefits.
Partnering with Housing Authorities or Nonprofits
States generally allow housing authorities, local governments, or nonprofits to operate affordable rental developments, even where rent control is forbidden. It may be possible to partner with these groups to ensure that all development contributes to affordable housing.
Boulder, Colorado requires that new rental developments provide affordable rental units on site or offsite, but the homes are owned by the local housing authority or similar agency so they are exempt from the state prohibition. The City of Boulder purchases the unit from the developer at an affordable price, and then sells or gives it to the Housing Authority or similar agency. Rental developments also have the option of providing a cash payment or dedicating land to the city.