What is IZ?

Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) is a land use tool that allows for a mix of workforce housing within new market-rate developments over a certain threshold size. IZ was first developed in 1974 in Montgomery County, Maryland, and has spread to over 500 jurisdictions across the country since. The purpose of IZ is to encourage or require housing units for moderate-income families in new market-rate developments, whether for sale or rent, while providing developers with offsets to ensure an acceptable return on investment. Jurisdictions can customize several functions of local IZ policy, such as the percentage of units set aside, the types of offsets provided, and whether to allow for an in-lieu payment for offsite development. Inclusionary housing provides opportunities for families of all backgrounds to have access to good schools, jobs, transportation alternatives, services, and amenities most often found in revitalized, healthy neighborhoods.

History of IZ in Oregon

In the late 1990’s, Metro, the Portland tri-county regional government, initiated a process to analyze a broad range of housing and land use tools to ensure both an adequate supply and equitable distribution of affordable housing across the region. In the course of researching and analyzing such tools, Metro identified inclusionary zoning as a potential tool. In 1999, Oregon Homebuilders’ Association passed a state prohibition through the Republican-controlled Legislature, preventing jurisdictions from adopting policies that require housing set-asides in private developments at target income levels. Subsequently, Metro’s Regional Affordable Housing Strategy (RAHS), adopted in 2001, contained aspirational affordable housing production goals but lacked the teeth to achieve those targets.

In the intervening fifteen years, with rising rents and housing prices across the Portland metro region and in other housing markets across the state, low- and moderate-income families have been increasingly pushed out to the fringes, further from jobs, good schools, and healthy community centers. Various efforts by housing advocates throughout the 2000s failed to make any real progress on the issue.

In 2010, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, along with core partners Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) and Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO), took up the issue anew and began shifting the dialogue. In 2011, Rep. Smith (D-47) introduced HB 3531 to repeal ORS 197.309. While the bill received an informational hearing, it served as an opportunity to rally new racial, social justice and health equity partners to the cause. In 2013, Rep. Reardon (D-48) introduced HB 2890, garnering strong support within the House. The House Human Services and Housing Committee passed HB 2890, but it was forced back into the committee for reconsideration, where it died without being allowed to go to the House floor for a vote. Now, in 2015, Rep. Williamson (D-36) is championing HB 2564, supported by Oregon Inclusionary Zoning Coalition, and ready to finally repeal the IZ ban.