Inclusionary approaches present an important opportunity to remedy regulatory and systemic barriers to low-cost housing production and can help offset the impact of planned renewal and gentrification processes for low-income renters. Inclusionary programmes offer potential to leverage more subsidised housing stock for low-income people, in better locations; and, in some cases, to recapture some of the windfall gains associated with planning decisions (Gurran 2008).
However, planning system approaches are generally unable to address the full range of housing needs. Rather they provide an important support for other government and non-government investments in affordable housing provision. Further, many of the approaches outlined here are thought to better enable market initiatives for lower-cost housing. In general, planning settings designed to leverage affordable housing inclusion should support rather than erode other goals associated with the planning system. For instance, whilst it is sometimes argued that lower environmental standards for the design of new homes would result in production savings, there is no guarantee these savings would be passed on to house buyers in the form of lower prices. Further, superior environmental designs reduce household energy and water costs, contributing to a wider notion of affordable housing. In other words, affordable housing delivered through planning schemes should be affordable across a range of budget measures—not expensive to run or to travel to or from. Requirements for affordable housing should be stable and certain, and ideally be applied across a region. This reduces the temptation for developers to ‘shop’ for a jurisdiction where the affordable housing obligation does not apply.
Whilst inclusionary housing models were originally positioned as an alternative to social housing provision by governments, the contribution of the planning system relates to securing land for well-located affordable housing opportunities in areas of active development activity. As the housing policy arena in many nations continues to evolve in the aftermath of the GFC, the role of planning systems is increasingly debated. The question is whether planning can help the transition to new intermediate models of affordable housing provision during a period of fiscal constraint, or whether even these mechanisms will be further wound back.