A story today in the NYTimes about inclusionary zoning for the middle class, in cities around the country where home prices have risen far beyond what an average salary can afford. Formerly confined to places like Manhattan, is this practice the wave of the future in "economic winner" cities? Does it work?
The author interviews one of the directors of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The precarious presence of the middle class in places such as Boston poses a serious economic risk:
"Our thinking is that a healthy middle class is important to the city," said Geoffrey Lewis, assistant director of policy at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has overseen the building of hundreds of units reserved for middle-income earners. "We want to keep these people in Boston; they are the glue in the neighborhoods and the glue in the economy as well."
Sometimes called low-cost, work force or inclusionary housing, the cut-price units are most popular in places "suffering from success," as one study described the cities where real estate costs outpaced incomes and where government officials, businesses and housing advocates were struggling to increase homeownership for all but the rich.
In places such as San Francisco, it is common for a house to be even out of the reach of a dual-income family making above $100,000. The choice between a place like San Francisco or Boston, and someplace less glamorous, can become a pure trade-off between lifestyle and affordability.
For example, these cities face competition from Nashville and Charlotte, two of several ascendant Southern cities, both poised to capture the middle-class jobs fleeing Boston. The article notes in particular Charlotte's push to provide the lifestyle amenities of larger cities, but at a much lower price overall.