Housing Complex

Inclusionary Zoning Pipeline Still Not Exactly Gushing

Get in line.

It's here, it's here, the first report on inclusionary zoning units that has actual information! Although the law requiring a certain percentage of new residential developments be priced below market passed back in 2007, it took a while for the regulations to kick in, so the program hasn't had much to show for itself.

Well, that's still pretty much true. The two condos in 2910 Georgia Avenue NW are the only for-sale IZ units to have hit the market (and because of the whole loan issue, they're still sitting there). No affordable rental units have yet been produced.

That's not a reflection of the housing pipeline. The District issued 249 building permits for residential buildings in 2011, totaling 4,726 units. Rather, it shows just how many exemptions there are to IZ regulations. Only three of those projects permitted in 2011 are subject to the requirements, and the Office of Planning is tracking a total of 82 projects, which will eventually generate 940 affordable units. The rest of the projects in the pipeline—120 of them, totaling 32,000 units—won't have to comply.

What's the problem here? About half of it is still timing: 53 projects received their approvals before IZ went into effect. The other big part of it is geography: IZ doesn't apply in parts of the city where developers can't build more densely to offset the cost of providing affordable units, like downtown and in historic districts like Anacostia and off Barracks Row. Many of the projects for which IZ requirements were waived actually are producing affordable units, either through a direct District subsidy or as part of a planned unit development. And then there are the projects with fewer than 10 units, as well as a handful of other exemptions, like the old Specialty Hospital, which technically is a conversion of a building, rather than an entirely new one.

When we start seeing construction on buildings actually permitted in 2011, IZ units will start coming online faster. But at the moment, even the far-out horizon doesn't look that strong, and we definitely can't consider IZ the answer to our housing affordability problem.