Incentive Zoning: Meeting Urban Design and Affordable Housing Objectives

PAS Report 494

By Marya Morris, FAICP

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Incentive zoning has received renewed attention as communities implement smart growth principles into planning and development processes. Incentive zoning allows a developer to build a larger, higher-density project than would be permitted under existing zoning. In exchange, the developer provides something that is in the community's interest that would not otherwise be required (e.g., open space, plazas, arcades, etc.)

The common types of community benefits or amenities for which state and local governments have devised incentive programs are urban design, human services (including affordable housing), and transit access. This report provides historical perspective, summarizes state enabling legislation, and describes the key substantive and legal issues local governments must address in crafting such regulations.

Case studies from Arlington County, Virginia; Minneapolis; and Seattle demonstrate how incentives can be used to achieve smart growth objectives. The report also provides principles to guide model legislation for zoning and affordable housing incentives.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Nov. 1, 2000
Adobe PDF
APA Planning Advisory Service

Table of Contents

1. Historical perspective and statutory overview

2. Incentive zoning for design and smart growth
Establishing the purposes • Selecting the desired amenities • Determining bonuses to be granted • Administering bonus programs • Case studies • Critiques of incentive programs and legal issues

3. Zoning incentives for affordable housing
California • New Jersey • Oregon • Florida • Conclusions

List of References

Premium bonus provisions in the Minneapolis, Minnesota zoning code • Draft of a model incentive zoning statute • Excerpts from the American Planning Association Policy Guide on Housing