This cross-site comparison brief presents a snapshot of key features of linkage and affordable housing impact fee policies in a sample of ten localities: Gunnison County, CO; San Bruno, CA; Everett, MA; Jupiter, FL; Medford, OR; Alexandria, VA; Fremont, CA; Washington, DC; Denver, CO; and Seattle, WA. The policies studied vary considerably across the jurisdictions. While all the programs have a shared objective of expanding housing access and affordability, they vary in how fees are determined; what projects are required to pay; when payment is due; and how fees are used by the city, among other features.
Two of the policies included in this comparison, those adopted by Alexandria, VA, and Washington, DC, apply the linkage or impact fees only to development that has requested and received a specific zoning benefit, such as increased density. While different from traditional linkage fees, which are applied to all similarly situated development without providing a specific benefit, they may be useful models in states that do not allow traditional linkage fees.
Key Features of Ten Localities’ Linkage and Impact Fees
The tables below provide high-level information about ten localities’ linkage and impact fee policies in five categories: 1) Policy Overview and Local Context, 2) Revenue Collection and Disbursement, 3) Linkage and Impact Fee Amounts and Applicable Projects, 4) Basis for Fee Determination, and 5) Fee Exemptions. The research team compiled information for this brief in July 2022 primarily from publicly available resources. Information in the tables might be incomplete for some programs if certain details were not publicly available. Unless otherwise noted, most information included in this brief is from the locality’s policy ordinance or overview page; links are provided in the following section. Population data are from the US Census 2020 ACS 5-Year Estimates.
1. Policy Overview and Local Context
The localities studied for this brief vary by population, from a small county of around 17,000 people to a large city of over 700,000 residents. The localities’ policies were also enacted at different times, extending from 1984 to 2021, and they reported a range of impacts — generating tens of thousands to millions in revenue for the localities’ affordable housing activities.
2. Revenue Collection and Disbursement
Among the localities studied, eight of ten required at least partial payment of their linkage or impact fee when a project is issued a building permit, and the issuing agency or department collects payment.
Localities’ fees are used to expand housing access and affordability in all cases. Most localities’ fees flow into a housing trust fund created by the local government to support the preservation and development of affordable housing; in some cases, fees also help localities fund targeted housing programs (e.g., homeownership programs).
3. Linkage and Impact Fee Amounts and Applicable Project Types
All localities studied require linkage fees for commercial development and most (but not all) charge fees on residential and industrial development.
All localities use formulas to determine their fees. Most of the localities charge fees based on new square footage or the number of units added, with the costs and requirements varying by project type. Gunnison County, CO provides an excel spreadsheet for developers to determine what their specific project type (e.g., commercial, new residential, or residential addition) and size will require in fees. The county’s formula is based on the community’s “affordability gap” (i.e., market price minus affordable price) and various characteristics of the proposed development (e.g., total square footage, employee and job generation potential, and household generation potential). Some communities use fees and exemptions to either incentivize or discourage certain types of development or construction in specific areas.
4. Basis for Adjusting the Fee
At least three localities adjust their rates regularly based on their area’s Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, and at least three use construction cost data to update their fee amounts.
5. Fee Exemptions
All ten of the localities’ policies allow for certain project types to be exempted from impact or linkage fees. The most common project types excluded from communities’ fee requirements are specific types of affordable housing and projects meeting existing affordable housing requirements in localities that have them. Another standard exemption is development intended for public use. In most localities, these exempted uses include buildings for government and educational purposes; hospitals and specific types of medical facilities; community centers; and places of worship, among others. Many localities also allow exemptions for developments below a specific size, either specifying a particular square footage or unit amount that would be exempt. Additionally, three localities allow exemptions for types of target development designated by the city, and three communities specifically called out parking structures’ square footage as an exclusion from their fee. Exemption types are identified in the two tables below.
Some localities also included the following exemptions.
The following table includes details specific to localities’ exemptions.
- Linkage fees/affordable housing impact fees: a Local Housing Solutions brief providing more information how these policy tools generate revenue to support the creation of affordable housing.