Policy and Practice

Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 403-422

First online:

The underpinnings of inclusionary housing in California: current practice and emerging market and legal challenges

  • Robert J. WienerAffiliated withCalifornia Coalition for Rural Housing, University of California, Davis Email author 
  • , Stephen E. BartonAffiliated withBerkeley Rent Stabilization Board

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Inclusionary zoning, commonly known as inclusionary housing (IH), first originated in the United States in the early‐1970s in the wealthy suburbs of Washington, DC. Since then, the epicenter of IH practice in the U.S. has moved west to California. Today, more than 25 % (145) of the state’s local governments have adopted inclusionary policies. These policies vary greatly in detail, but share common characteristics. In contrast, IH in Europe is of newer vintage, emerging mostly in the 1990s as governments began to withdraw from direct provision of social housing and impose affordable housing requirements on private developers. And, unlike Europe, IH in the U.S. is not imposed via national, state, or regional government land use and planning laws, but is, generally, a voluntary election by individual localities. Since 2008, the implosion of the California real estate market and negative court cases have challenged the fundamental assumptions underlying IH and brought the virtual cessation of new IH programs. Some existing programs have been modified, suspended, or repealed. This research discusses the political and ideological debates that inform IH within the American context, profiles the origins and characteristics of these programs, and speculates about the future of IH in view of recent changes in the housing market and the legal environment.


Affordable housing Inclusionary zoning Land values Mixed-income communities Social and economic integration