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Case Studies - Inclusionary Zoning

View case studies conducted on the Inclusionary Zoning module.

Dennis, Massachusetts: Rural Case Study

The Town of Dennis is located on Cape Cod 76 miles southeast of Boston. The town is bordered by Cape Cod Bay on the north, Brewster and Harwich on the east, Nantucket Sound on the south, and Yarmouth on the west.

Dennis is committed to addressing its affordable housing shortage and, through zoning updates and the new Affordable Housing Action Plan, the town hopes to raise its affordable housing stock from 3.4 to 10% by 2015. To this end, Dennis's zoning bylaws, which were updated in 2003, include provisions for inclusionary zoning. The following conditions are specified in Dennis's Inclusionary Zoning Bylaws:

  • 25% of residential units in a development that is built on 2.5 acres or more must be affordable.
  • Accomodations for the provisions of affordable units include (1) density increases, (2) reduced minimum area requirement for affordable units, and (3) reduced off-street parking requirements
  • Affordable apartments can be built as accessory uses to both existing residential and commercial uses. Existing hotels and motels can be converted into affordable apartments.
  • Municipally sponsored housing projects are provided with reduced requirements for minimum area, density, buffers, and parking.

Critical Elements to the Program's Success:

  • Stewardship - The town has designated a new committee the Dennis Affordable Housing Partnership, to facilitate affordable housing initiatives. A town staff member is the liaison between the Affordable Housing Partnership and Dennis Housing Authority.
  • Sound policy - The new zoning bylaws mandate affordable housing construction and include complementary measures to make affordable housing development economically viable.
  • Funding - Dennis applied for and received two Community Development Block Grants to rehabilitate existing units. To date, 24 units have been completed and an additional 25 units are scheduled for completion within a year.
  • Community support - Dennis worked with local developers (for-profit and non-profit) to create the permit approval process for affordable housing projects.

Barnstable, Massachusetts: Suburban Case Study

Barnstable is located on Cape Cod 53 miles east of Fall River and 69 miles southeast of Boston. The town is bordered by Cape Cod Bay on the north, Nantucket Sound on the south, Sandwich and Mashpee on the west, and Yarmouth on the east. Due to its large number of year-round housing units and the fragile local environment, Barnstable faces the distinct challenge of increasing the number of affordable units while encouraging more sustainable development of market rate housing.

Dacey v. Town of Barnstable was one of the first legal claims against inclusionary zoning in Massachusetts. The case challenged a specific provision in the Barnstable inclusionary housing ordinance that required developers to pay a fee, to be deposited into the town's affordable housing fund, when subdividing a land parcel of less than ten acres or developing under ten residential units. The Barnstable Superior Court determined that the nature of the ordinance was a tax, not a fee, and the town did not have the authority to collect taxes.

It's important to note that this decision was based on whether the charge was a tax or a fee, and not the traditional inclusionary zoning components of the ordinance.

Barnstable first implemented an inclusionary zoning bylaw in 2001 as a part of an Affordable Housing Plan, which seeks to produce 1,000 units of affordable housing in ten years time. The following goals, incentives, and techniques are specified in the Barnstable Plan:

  • 10% of all housing units in the town must be affordable to residents at or below 80% of area median income (AMI)
  • Incentives for developments that are 100% affordable include (1) waived density requirements and (2) reduced minimum lot sizes.
  • A subdivision that creates 10 or more lots or a multiple unit development that creates 10 or more units is required to dedicate 10 percent of the units to affordable housing.
  • Alternatives to on-site construction of affordable housing include (1) fee-in-lieu of payments of money or land, or (2) construction or rehabilitation of housing off-site.
  • The control period for the affordable units is 40 years with the town having right of first refusal to purchase the dwelling unit should a qualified purchaser, beyond the initial purchaser, not be found.

Critical Elements to the Program's Success:

  • Vision - Inclusionary zoning policy was created as part of an overall affordable housing plan for the town.
  • Capacity -The Town created positions and dedicated staff to work toward increasing affordable housing stock. Key positions included a director of the Office of Community and Economic Development, Community Development Coordinator, Special Projects Coordinator, and a part-time Housing Development Coordinator.
  • Local Agency Support - The Town of Barnstable worked with the local Community Housing Development Office (CHODO), Housing Assistance Corporation, and the Office of Community and Economic Development in order to draft the Affordable Housing Plan.
  • Innovative Solutions - To encourage affordable housing development, preserve existing housing stock, and control growth, Barnstable introduced an Accessory Affordable Housing/Amnesty program that brings existing non-conforming dwelling units and new accessory units into compliance if used for affordable housing.

    Newton, Massachusetts: Urban Case Study

    The City of Newton, located six miles west of downtown Boston, is comprised of 13 villages, eight wards, and is governed by an elected mayor and a 24-member Board of Aldermen.

    The housing stock in Newton is predominantly single-family, with home prices typically at the upper end of the Boston real estate market. Only 12.5% of the land is zoned for multifamily use, making site selection, availability, and assembly a distinct challenge for affordable housing developers. As of 2005, 6.6% of the housing units in Newton were classified as affordable in the state's Subsidized Housing Inventory.

    Critical Elements to the Program's Success:

    The inclusionary zoning ordinance in Newton has undergone two substantial modifications since the original 1977 draft. The most recent inclusionary zoning ordinance, adopted in 2003, improved on prior versions in the following ways:

    • Inclusionary units can be constructed off-site if special permits are granted contemporaneously for both developments.
    • The income qualification for eligible households is set between 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) for rental housing to 120% of AMI for for-sale housing.
    • Alternatives to on-site construction of affordable housing include (1) fee-in-lieu payments to the Newton Housing Authority, or (2) construction or rehabilitation of housing off-site.
    • The control period for affordability is forty years, during which time the developer retains ownership of the affordable units and they are leased through the Newton Housing Authority. The requirement of developer-ownership during the affordability period substantially increases risk and financial burden to the developer, creating a disincentive for affordable housing development.
    • At least 10% of the total habitable space within a development must be reserved for affordable housing. By regulating total square footage rather than individual unit sizes, this provision gives developers flexibility to design a broader range of housing types - from luxury condominiums to affordable studios - within a single structure. The city's prior zoning code required that affordable units be equal in size, quality, and character, making mixed-income development financially unfeasible
      • For developments that contain six or fewer residential units, the developer may make a cash payment of 3% of the sales price for for-sale housing, or three percent of the assessed value of each unit for rental housing, in lieu of affordable housing development.