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Inclusive communities mean more than just zoning

by Patrick Maier, Executive Director, Innovative Housing Institute

NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest posters do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.

IHI Executive Director Patrick Maier

A little over a year ago, I got a call from Jeff Lubell who asked about the Innovative Housing Institute’s intent for the next National Inclusionary Housing Conference. We had held three national inclusionary conferences up to that point, together with partners NHC, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, and PolicyLink. I told Jeff that we didn’t have one in the works at the moment and related my chagrin at the financial hit we took at our last Conference for not filling enough hotel beds. It was a great conference in substance and in terms of who was there, but as the old joke goes, “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

Jeff seized the moment, mentioned that NHC/CHP was starting to put together the next NHC Solutions Conference, and asked “Would IHI lead the planning for a strong track that focuses on inclusive strategies?” I didn’t have to think very long about whether or not we were interested.

Inclusion as a residential land use strategy to promote affordability is still in its adolescence here in the United States. The first localities in the U.S. to adopt policies did so in the mid-1970s. There were not very many of them and they were developing inclusionary policy out of whole cloth. It’s worth noting that these were the first inclusionary policies in the world. Civic leaders recognized that local workers were priced out of the communities they served and fashioned solutions that work with market development to provide some housing that was affordable, integrated with the larger community.

There has been substantial growth in adopted policies since then, particularly in states that developed statutes that promoted such local policies. But because these policies are inherently local in relationship to the housing market environment, that fashioning is still going on today—adjusting to changes in market demand, the profile of need in that area, and the changing shape and economics of real estate development.

So like adolescents of all stripes, inclusionary policy needs guidance, role models, friends, and perhaps some discipline to prosper. And the opportunity to work with the National Housing Conference to continue the dialogue and sharing of expertise that our previous conferences offered was too good to pass up. The Innovative Housing Institute and the National Housing Conference are jointly presenting an outstanding program track, Solutions for Inclusive Communities, as part of the upcoming Solutions 2013: National Conference on State and Local Housing Policy. And to be clear, we’re not just addressing inclusionary zoning. We will address the broader set of solutions that are in play when a community decides affirmatively to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We’ve assembled an excellent advisory panel for this track to ensure that it presents the most critical developments in the field including those affecting fair housing, developments in state and regional policy, advocacy and legal issues and technical best practices.

We hope you will consider joining us in Atlanta in September. As the country emerges from the not-so-great recession, the challenges to fair and affordable housing are more evident than ever. Your help in strengthening inclusive policy and practice may point the way to a better future for all Americans.

Patrick Maier is the Executive Director of the Innovative Housing Institute and a housing professional with more than thirty years of experience in all aspects of affordable housing. The Innovative Housing Institute is a national leader in the field of inclusionary housing and provides consulting assistance on affordable housing in economically diverse and sustainable communities.

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