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11/6/01: David Rusk explains in his book Inside Game/Outside Game, how
urban sprawl, race and concentrated poverty have interacted to shape metropolitan
Inclusionary Zoning: A Viable
Solution to the
Affordable Housing Crisis?
Inside Game/Outside Game: The Emerging Anti-Sprawl Coalition
By David Rusk
Over 25 years ago, wealthy Montgomery County, Maryland, outside Washington, DC,
adopted its Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) ordinance. The "MPDU"
mandate was the nation's first inclusionary zoning law.
In any new housing development of 50 or more units, the county council ruled that
at least 15 percent of the housing must be affordable for the lowest one-third of
the county's households. As compensation, developers could receive a density bonus
of up to 22 percent. By law, the county public housing authority could buy one-third
of the affordable units.
In the decades after the advent of the ordinance, for-profit homebuilders produced
almost 11,000 MPDUs-two-thirds purchased by young teachers, police officers, retail
and service workers. Over 1,500 MPDUs, scattered in more than 200 middle class subdivisions,
were purchased by the housing authority.
The result? Montgomery County became one of the nation's more racially and economically
integrated communities. Ensuring housing for a diversified labor force also was
key to successfully diversifying the county's job base.
A Different Philadelphia Story
Let us imagine what a major metropolitan area-Greater Philadelphia, for example-would
be like today if, by some political magic, a similar inclusionary zoning policy
had been applied 25 years ago to its 339 cities, boroughs, towns and townships (spread
across eight counties in two states). During that period, developers built about
575,000 new homes-85 percent in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Chester and Camden.
Under a Montgomery County-type formula, 38,000 new units would have been affordable
for working class households. Another 19,000 new units would have been bought or
rented by a regional network of housing authorities.
With federal subsidies, every public housing project in Greater Philadelphia could
have been redeveloped as mixed-income housing, reducing overall unit densities by
one-third in the process. Two-thirds of the new residents could have been market
rate owners or renters; only one-third would have been public housing households
(including low-income senior citizens). The city's high-poverty ghettos would have
been reborn as mixed-income neighborhoods. Some 17,000 public housing families,
displaced from their former projects, could have moved (in small numbers) into scattered
site units throughout the city's suburbs, as required by the regional mixed-income
housing rule. Philadelphia*s suburbs would be more integrated by race and income.
High concentrations of poverty would have vanished. Poverty rates could have been
brought below 30 percent in every one of 70 high poverty census tracts in Greater
The region's crime rate would have dropped dramatically. Attending low poverty
suburban schools, poor children's test scores would have jumped 10 to 15 percentage
points. Unemployment among their parents would have dropped (perhaps by one-third,
one study suggests) in job-rich suburbs. Relieved of a heavy burden of poverty-related
costs and acquiring a more economically balanced population, the city's fiscal distress
would have been alleviated. City neighborhoods and schools would become feasible
choices for more middle-class families (both white and black).
With no high poverty neighborhoods expelling remaining middle class residents from
the core, growth pressures on the periphery would probably ease. Rather than consuming
land at six times the rate of regional population growth, the Greater Philadelphia
area*s rate of sprawl might even drop to only twice the rate of population growth
even without stringent regional growth management controls.
Inside Game/Outside Game
How urban sprawl, race and concentrated poverty have interacted to shape metropolitan
America are the central themes of my new book, "Inside Game! Outside Game"
(The Century Foundation/Brookings Institution Press). The dramatically different
Greater Philadelphia illustrates what might have been the impact of changing the
public "rules of the game," particularly as they affect land development
and housing markets.
"Inside Game/Outside Game" draws on extensive analysis of census data
and my experiences as a speaker and consultant on urban policy in over 90 metropolitan
areas during the 1990s. The title conveys the book*s principal finding: the downward
course of poverty-impacted urban neighborhoods and declining central cities is rarely
reversed by solely playing the "inside game (policies and programs targeted
solely within the boundaries of such neighborhoods and cities). Reversing urban
decline requires playing and winning the "outside game" as well (policies
that deal with regional trends beyond the target communities* boundaries).
Key elements of the "outside game" are:
Changing the "Rules of the Game"
regional land use planning and growth management
(to combat suburban sprawl and urban abandonment);
regional "fair share" low- and moderate-income
housing (to reverse rising economic segregation); and
regional tax base sharing (to offset widening
Changing these "rules of the game" is primarily a task for state legislatures.
Some state laws provide for relatively few local governments. Maryland*s dominant,
"big box" county governments, for example, have both legal and political
ability to adopt county-wide growth management and mixed-income housing rules.
However, most metropolitan areas feature a multiplicity of "little box"
local governments that resist voluntary compacts on tough, controversial issues.
Only changes in state or federal law can set different region-wide requirements.
And although federal writ follows federal dollars, it is state legislatures that
draw up the rules regarding what local governments can do and how they do it.
No policy would have a greater impact than mandating "fair share" mixed-income
housing as a modest proportion of all new developments. Across metropolitan America
there are twice as many poor whites as there are poor blacks or poor Hispanics.
Poor whites, however, rarely live in poverty-impacted neighborhoods. Only one of
four poor whites lives in a neighborhood where poverty rates exceed 20 percent (and
1 of 20 in neighborhoods with poverty rates higher than 40 percent).
By contrast, the numbers are reversed for poor minorities. Three of four poor blacks
(and half of poor Hispanics) live in poverty-impacted neighborhoods-and one-third
of poor blacks live in high-poverty neighborhoods.
This racially skewed concentration of poverty drives up crime rates, drives down
local school test scores, depresses local property values and often drives up tax
rates of fiscally stressed city governments.
Yet research demonstrates that "mainstreaming" poor minorities into middle
class communities (as most poor whites are) slashes crime and delinquency, boosts
school performance, narrows the "segregation tax" that minority homeowners
pay in the value of their homes and eases fiscal burdens on city governments.
Mixed-income housing proposals, however, run into many Americans' deepest fears
about race and class and are hardest to achieve politically. "Inside Game/Outside
Game" argues that urban sprawl is the issue around which the most potent coalition
can be built.
New Coalitions for Regional Reforms
Farm and preservation and environmental groups have long pressed for state growth
management laws. But sprawl's impact has been greater on social geography than natural
Frustrated suburbanites, stuck in traffic, are currently the most visible recruits
to the anti-sprawl movement, but other groups are signing on. Mainstream business
organizations, like the Silicon Valley Manufacturers Group, Chicago's Commercial
Club, the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce have become
growth management converts. University researchers, like the Ohio Housing Research
Network, are increasingly assessing sprawl's costs and providing fuel for grassroots
The civil rights movement changed the nation's racial rules (our stewardship to
each other). The environmental movement changed the nation's environmental protection
rules (our stewardship to nature).
Now civil rights and environmental activists are tentatively reaching toward each
other to change the rules that divide American society by space and class.