Planning, Housing Supply and Affordable Development in the USA


There have been ongoing tensions between housing and urban policy in the USA, where restrictive local planning systems emerged as a mechanism for suburban ‘exclusion’ over the early and mid-twentieth century, exacerbating socio-spatial divides. This chapter explores these tensions, outlining the evolution of housing policy and its relationship to the planning system over the twentieth century. After reviewing the state of the market post-crisis, it goes on to explain contemporary housing roles of the federal government, states and local authorities in the USA, and the key forms of housing assistance through rental vouchers, public housing and tax credits to incentivise low-cost rental housing development and provision. This chapter then sets out a typology of planning system approaches for affordable housing, proceeding from ‘anti-snob’ policies in states such as Massachusetts, designed to overcome local resistance to affordable housing development in suburban neighbourhoods through to voluntary and mandatory inclusionary zoning schemes, which require a

This chapter is authored by Kirk McClure, Nicole Gurran, Glen Bramley.

© The Author(s) 2017

K. McClure et al., Urban Planning and the Housing Market, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-46403-3_6

proportion of housing be set aside for affordable rental or home purchase; density bonuses for affordable housing provision, protective mechanisms and impact fees to preserve affordable housing or offset its loss. These measures have evolved over time and are now used in conjunction with new policies to encourage ‘smart growth’ and renewal through densifica- tion around public transit.

The concluding section summarises this history and experience, which has seen planning largely divorced from social housing issues and functioning primarily to protect the amenity and property values of middle- class suburbanites. With arguably no ‘national’ shortage of housing, the issue for affordable housing is a spatial one of delivering in areas of pressure. The lessons from significant regional initiatives for inclusionary housing are reviewed, and the key role of local and state-level initiatives and policy are underlined.

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