Incentive Zoning

HDC believes that King County’s many moderate and low wage workers should be able to live affordably in the cities they work in rather than endure long, expensive, and polluting commutes that place them far from family and community for too much of the working day.

Incentive zoning policies ensure that a portion of new development in select areas of a city is affordable to families earning moderate incomes.

Incentive zoning requires developers to make a percentage of housing units in new residential developments available to low- and moderate-income households. In return, developers receive non-monetary compensation-in the form of density bonuses, zoning variances, and/or expedited permits-that reduce construction costs. By linking the production of affordable housing to private market development, incentive zoning expands the supply of affordable housing while dispersing affordable homes throughout a city or county to broaden opportunity and foster mixed-income communities.

Incentive zoning is a flexible strategy with a proven track record of meeting a community’s affordable housing needs.

Some jurisdictions require developers to construct affordable homes within the new development, while others allow affordable homes to be constructed in another location.  Some jurisdictions require developers to build the units, while other communities allow developers to contribute to an affordable housing fund. Check out some program models from East King County here.

Seattle, Redmond, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Shoreline, and Issaquah have all implemented some type of incentive zoning policy. 

HDC was one of the primary advocates for the revised incentive zoning policies that Seattle’s City Council adopted in 2008 and that the City of Bellevue has adopted for the Bel-Red Corridor. The intent of the policies is clear: to ensure equitable housing opportunities for current and future residents while implementing Comprehensive Plan goals and guidelines.

  • On March 16th, the Shoreline City Council adopted a strong incentive zoning policy as part of its 185th Street Light Rail Station Development Regulations.
  • View HDC’s comments regarding Bellevue’s Downtown Livability Initiative here.
  • HDC recently supported other development incentives in Bellevue. Read our comment here.

For HDC’s other work on Inclusionary Housing, please visit: