Inclusionary programs produce affordable units through market-rate, private sector development projects. In almost all cases, a city or county’s planning department is the first line of contact for developers. However, since most other affordable housing programs typically live within a different department, there must be some level of coordination between the housing staff and the planning department in order for a jurisdiction to meet its affordable housing goals.
In most larger cities, a developer seeking project approval works independently in parallel with planning and building staff and housing department staff. This hands-off practice appears to be more typical of larger, more complex urban jurisdictions where inclusionary requirements are relatively inflexible and there are too many projects in development at a given time for staff from different departments to work together in any meaningful way.
In some medium-sized jurisdictions, the planning division flags relevant development applications for the housing division. Housing division staff in some jurisdictions also regularly attend meetings with the planning division to discuss upcoming projects. Other jurisdictions make sure to involve housing division in specific project review meetings with developers.
In some of the smaller jurisdictions, where there is flexibility in the inclusionary program and a sufficiently small number of projects to deal with, housing division staff may work very closely with planning staff and private developers to shape projects.
Montgomery County, Maryland
In Montgomery County inclusionary program staff includes a planner who sits on the planning department’s development review committee, which reviews all developments before they reach the county planning board.
Suggested Best Practices
Small and Medium-sized Jurisdictions
In small and medium-sized jurisdictions, where it is practical for housing staff to be involved in all significant development applications, the housing department should:
- Be notified automatically of new development proposals when a developer files a complete planning or zoning application.
- Be involved in reviewing development proposals side by side with planning staff from the beginning of internal discussions about the development proposal.
- Participate in regularly scheduled development review meetings with planning staff to make sure that all upcoming projects are discussed from the perspective of housing goals.
- Have dedicated housing staff members who have planning expertise work very closely with developers and the planning department.
In larger jurisdictions where it would be impractical for housing staff to be involved in all significant development proposals, housing staff should:
- Make sure that the planning staff who will do most of the interaction with developers are very knowledgeable about inclusionary program requirements, permissible alternatives etc.
- Conduct periodic training sessions with planning staff to make sure they understand both the rules of the inclusionary program and the policy desires behind the rules.
All Size Jurisdictions
In all jurisdictions, housing staff should work with the planning department not only to review pending development proposals, but also to review and comment on proposed changes to the city or county master plan, or any area plans that may be developed, to ensure consistency with housing policies and goals.