Q: How is this different than inclusionary zoning (i.e. for every 10 units built, a developer must build one for affordable housing) or density bonusing where cities will give developers increased density in exchange for an amenity (i.e. cash for an affordable housing fund)?
A: The key difference between the above approaches and social offsets is the ownership and accountability taken by individual citizens in the community. Zoning and bonusing are institutional measures that are imposed by governments on citizens’ behalf.
In contrast, social offsets are explicitly designed to be community driven:
- New community residents (the new condo purchasers) are investing in a more inclusive community
- Existing community residents have the opportunity to engage in the local community through co-operative home ownership
This extends a fundamental principle of Community Economic Development: community engagement and empowerment. In addition, it means that this project could start immediately and make an impact in providing affordable housing. Zoning and bonusing, while valuable, take time in lobbying governments, enacting by-laws and legislation, implementation and enforcement costs and more.
Additionally, both of these approaches “force” developers into the affordable housing – an area in which they are not comfortable and not necessarily going to make the best effort to deliver. Social offsets provides a mechanism for community members to actively participate in the creation of a liveable, affordable, diverse and empowered community