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Inclusionary zoning is one tool the Affordable Housing Task Force is considering to address the city’s mix of market-rate and affordable housing. (Illustration by Anita DuFalla/PublicSource)

In May 2016, the City of Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Task Force prepared a report recommending several affordable housing policies to the Mayor’s Office. The task force noted the “compelling need to address the changing landscape of housing affordability in Pittsburgh.” Of the housing proposals, mandatory inclusionary zoning sticks out as potentially one of the most effective policies. However, the legality of inclusionary zoning in Pittsburgh depends on how the policy and its goals are framed at the outset.

What is the policy of inclusionary zoning?

Inclusionary zoning is defined as any mechanism under local law that requires or encourages private-sector developers to construct affordable units. The task force’s proposal has all the hallmarks for the potential enactment of a mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinance.

The report notes that a density bonus should be one of several compliance mechanisms, which gives developers “height and density in return for the provision of affordable housing.” The task force additionally recommends a citywide set-aside scheme for projects that exceed 25 units. This would require a developer to “set aside” a percentage of low-cost units on a new development if the developer receives “direct public subsidy.”



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