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CityLab University: Inclusionary Zoning

You’ve seen the term. But do you really know what it means? Here’s your essential primer.
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Madison McVeigh/CityLab

If you’ve hung around the CityLab site, sat through a City Council meeting, or hobnobbed with a housing developer, you’ve probably run across the term “inclusionary zoning.” You might even think you know what it means. But wait, do you? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Welcome to the pilot edition of “CityLab University,” a resource for understanding some of the most important concepts related to cities and urban policy. If you like this feature, have constructive feedback, or would like to see a similar explainer on other topics, drop us a line at

In Washington, D.C.’s rapidly gentrifying Petworth neighborhood, the recently opened Fahrenheit building could easily be seen as a symbol of the area’s increasing unaffordability. Its bright red exterior and ground-floor craft cider house send a powerful signal about the price of the apartments above, which range from $2,400 to $2,745 for a two-bedroom unit. But all is not as it seems. Three of the Fahrenheit’s 31 units are available at below market rates as part of the District’s inclusionary zoning (IZ) program, which, in fiscal year 2016, offered two-bedroom apartments for an average rent of $1,636.