When Ford rolls 100 cars off its assembly line, does the government ask them to donate five cars to the local police department? Or how about when a Borders comes to town? Would the city require a certain percentage of books to go to the local schools?
The answer is no. What John Delaney, an attorney with Linowes & Blocher in Bethesda, Md., wonders is why, then, would think it appropriate to ask developers to contribute some of their built housing to the city? In many places, inclusionary zoning laws require developers to chip in 10 percent to 15 percent-even up to 22 percent in the case of Montgomery County, Md.-for affordable housing in a new development.
"You don't get a density bonus, but you still have to build affordable housing. Something is wrong," said Delaney, who spoke during Wednesday's "Property Rights and Land Development" session at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla.
During the discussion, Delaney pointed the finger at local governments for the housing affordability problems that still plague many cities around the country (despite the current housing market). No one in attendance argued with him.
"The reason we have a problem is because communities can't balance jobs and housing," Delaney said. He argued that this lack of balance leads to a laundry list of social ills, including traffic congestion, family tension, and a shortage of affordable housing near job centers.
To fix these problems, Delaney urges that developers and builders adopt a checklist that gauges how local and state governments are doing in balancing jobs and housing. He suggests looking at the Comprehensive Plan and the Capital Improvement Plan to see if they include housing and affordable housing provisions. He also suggests monitoring the zoning laws to see if high-density building is encouraged.
"The more we get away from higher densities, the more sprawl we have," Delaney said.
Instead of worrying about controlling sprawl, Delaney said localities are more concerned about fostering an environment where office, residential, and commercial development thrive. "When people talk about controlling growth, they're usually talking about controlling residential growth," he added.