Regulatory Impact Analysis

W-ZHA is retained by municipalities to evaluate the impact that different regulatory regimes have on 1) private development feasibility and 2) potential community benefits. Often different scenarios are tested to better understand impacts and trade-offs. Such analyses allow for informed decision-making.

A key issue at play today is how to leverage regulations to obtain specific, place-based amenities.

Proposed Sector Plan Due Diligence (Alexandria, VA)
The City of Alexandria develops land use plans for areas within the City. On twelve separate sector plans, W-ZHA has worked with the City to bring the development economics perspective to the planning process. W-ZHA tests the impact of alternative development regulations and/or plans on private development feasibility. W-ZHA analyzes the private investor’s return given different land use regulations. One objective is to ensure that the planning process includes an understanding of development economics. Another objective is to quantify whether there is an opportunity to leverage private capital to pay for community-related benefits (affordable housing, open space, etc.).

Affordable Housing Policy Analysis (Alexandria, VA)
The Department of Housing and Department of Planning retained W-ZHA to analyze the implications of different affordable housing protocols on private development feasibility. W-ZHA analyzed how different affordable housing initiatives impacted development economics by applying rent and development cost sensitivity analysis.

Kendall and Central Square Planning (Cambridge, MA)
In 2011–2012, the City of Cambridge conducted a comprehensive planning study to develop a vision for Central Square, Kendall Square, and the area South of Main Street (including the Osborn Triangle) connecting the two squares. With Harvard a major landowner, Kendall Square is one of the nation’s pre-eminent innovation districts and its market power was beginning to impact land use and economics in neighboring Central Square. The issue was how to enhance and/or protect the mixed-use character of these two districts given powerful institutional market forces that demanded research space. W-ZHA conducted the commercial market and economic analysis that tested the real estate development implications of various regulatory options designed to incent residential and retail development.

Tax Abatement Analysis and Policy (Albany, NY)
W-ZHA was retained by the City of Albany Industrial Development Agency to develop a financial model where different tax abatement schedules could be tested for various land uses. The goal was to develop a standardized abatement schedules for projects that satisfied IDA funding requirements. W-ZHA developed a model for residential new construction, residential rehabilitation and commercial development. Various tax abatement approaches were tested as to their ability to support private investment and protect the City’s fiscal health. As a result of this analysis, new policies have been adopted with standardized abatement schedules.

Selected Places Where We Have Tested Regulation Impacts

  • Stamford, CT
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Montgomery County, MD
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Albany, NY
  • Tulsa, OK
  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Arlington County, VA

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