Regulatory Incentives

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Regulatory incentives are one method that jurisdictions can encourage the production and preservation of affordable housing units. These tools make affordable units more attractive compared to market rate units or make the provision of affordable units more feasible by offering valuable concessions, reducing expenses, or removing regulatory requirements. Regulatory incentives are not mandatory, and offer relief from zoning standards, fees, or review processes as opposed to offering direct financial support through other types of incentives. Like all incentives, calibrating the value of the incentive and base entitlement is critical so that the incentive is advantageous. Additionally, regulatory incentives may be explicitly allowed or permitted based upon a discretionary process.

Where Are They Being Used?
The map illustrates regulatory incentives currently utilized by jurisdictions with populations greater than 20,000 people in the Portland metro area. Regulatory incentives that are offered at the discretion of review boards or elected officials or those that may be permitted through policies unrelated to affordable housing are not included.

For More Information
A summary of regulatory incentives currently utilized by metro area jurisdictions as illustrated on the map below. To view a summary of the regulatory incentives available in each jurisdiction, click here for a comparative matrix.For complete information, please contact the appropriate jurisdiction.

Density bonuses offer increased development capacity for the provision of affordable housing beyond the base zoning entitlement. Density bonuses may be provided through increased dwelling units per acre or an increase in floor area ratio (FAR). Depending on the complexity of the incentive, the increase in density may be utilized on-site or off-site at another building, or achieved through payment of a fee to fund affordable housing development.
The wavier or reduction of fees associated with development for affordable housing can reduce the expense of developing affordable units and make them both more attractive and more feasible. Permit fees, impact fees, system development charges, and other local fees may be waived or reduced.
Expedited permitting may make affordable housing development less risky or more attractive by reducing time and uncertainty in the development review process. Development applications for affordable housing may be advanced in the administrative queue, or review timelines may be compressed to move an affordable housing project through the development process faster.
Parking is expensive to build and consumes valuable space on a site, reducing usable square footage. Residents of affordable housing units may also have a lower rate of auto ownership and utilize public transportation options at a greater rate if the units are located near quality transit and a supportive mix of uses. Reduced parking requirements for affordable housing makes affordable units more attractive to develop and can make challenging sites more feasible to develop.
Where existing affordable housing is located in an area with higher entitlement and development pressure, the transfer of development rights is a tool to preserve the affordable units. The development capacity may be transferred from the affordable housing’s site to another site to facilitate the preservation of the existing units while ensuring an economic return to the owner. This transfer may make it more economically viable to preserve existing affordable housing.