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Limited land availability is often cited as a barrier to affordable housing development. One solution may lie in the pockets of vacant or underused land present in many communities. Developing on vacant parcels in built-out neighborhoods — infill development — has been increasingly used for residential purposes and long accepted as a means of increasing the affordable housing supply. This article will look at programs created by some communities to promote infill development, such as the infill housing initiative program offered by Miami-Dade County, Florida, and the expedited approval program in San Diego, California.

Miami-Dade County's Infill Housing Program

Miami-Dade County, Florida offers a number of incentives to encourage infill affordable housing development through its Infill Housing Program. Under the program, county-owned lots suitable for development are made available to qualified affordable housing developers in order to increase the housing supply and to revitalize blighted neighborhoods. The developers are required to complete construction of affordable housing projects within 12 months of acquisition. Following completion, developers sell the units to low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers who earn less than 140 percent of the area median income. The county sets a maximum sales price (currently at $225,000) for all homes built through the program, which must remain affordable for a period of 20 years.

Privately-owned properties located within designated infill target areas are also eligible for the many incentives provided by the program. In addition to making county-owned properties available for affordable housing development, the county also helps privately-owned properties to be cleared of any liens when being developed under the program. Other incentives provided by the program include an expedited building permit process, impact fee waivers, water and sewer fee waivers, and reduced real estate taxes.

City of San Diego's Expedite Program for Infill Housing

The city of San Diego, California's Expedite Program for Affordable Infill Housing allows expedited permit processing for affordable infill housing developments that have 10 or more proposed units and are located within designated urbanized areas. All infill housing units (for rent or for sale to first-time homebuyers) must be affordable to households earning no more than 150 percent of the area median income. The program also allows deviations from the development standards outlined in the city code for the infill housing projects.

Other Infill Housing Incentives

View of downtown Phoenix, Arizona.

To increase its housing supply, the city of Phoenix, Arizona adopted an Infill Housing Program that provides development fee waivers, assistance with off-site improvements, and expedited review processes for qualifying infill housing projects. Fee waivers are limited to 25 lots per subdivision at a maximum of $1,000 per house. Another incentive program adopted by Clark County, Washington allows reduced roadway widths, storm water and erosion control requirement exemptions, and reduced lot area and setback requirements for eligible infill housing projects.

Conclusion

Most communities have vacant parcels of land within existing neighborhoods that lend themselves to residential development. Housing development on these infill lots not only increases the affordable housing supply, but also revitalizes declining neighborhoods and expands a communitys property tax base. Providing financial and regulatory incentives to offset the costs of development can help encourage construction of affordable housing within these parcels.

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