The Latest

A Closer Look at Philadelphia’s Inclusionary Zoning Bill

By Jay Goldstein

There’s been a fair amount of discussion lately in City Hall, in the real estate community and in neighborhoods on City Council’s efforts to pass on the Inclusionary Zoning bill that would mandate private developers to include subsidized units for low-income residents in new, high density projects.

The original bill required subsidized units for development projects throughout the City. After significant pushback from developers, preservationists and neighborhood groups, the bill was amended.

On December 5, City Council’s Rules Committee voted to require private developers to include subsidized units for low-income residents in new, high density projects. Final voting on the bill is slated for January 25, 2018.

  • The bill is now directed only to high-density Center City and West Philly. If the law goes into effect, all new projects in a high density zone would have to set aside 10% of its units to people earning between 50% and 80% of the area’s median income. Estimates are that the bill will produce about 200 units of subsidized housing a year. In exchange developers can construct up to 50% bigger buildings than zoning codes allow.
  • There continues to be opposition from developers who fear that construction will become unaffordable and are suggesting paying a fix impact fee rather than designating affordable units; and from neighborhood groups and preservationists who are concerned about undermining zoning laws and allowing over-sized buildings in dense communities.
  • Some question the need for this bill seeing that Philly has some of the lowest housing prices of big cities in the country; a typical two-bedroom here rents for a third of what it would cost in San Francisco or New York City.
  • The Commerce Department acknowledges that this bill is still in flux and may be further revisited before a vote is taken.