Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
Summary: This legislation would make sensible reforms to the state’s affordable housing law, Chapter 40B, including provisions that will help communities more reasonably reach the state’s 10% affordable housing requirement as well as increase community participation in affordable housing development.
Why This Matters: Chapter 40B is a law with an important goal of encouraging low and moderate income housing in communities throughout the state. As the law currently stands, any city or town that does not meet the ten percent standard, (meaning that at least 10% of the municipality’s housing stock is classified as affordable) is subject to expedited 40B permitting. This means that developers seeking to build affordable housing in those communities are able to override local zoning laws and go through a more streamlined permitting process and build denser housing. Thus, 40B provides a strong incentive for towns to reach the “ten percent” standard.
40B has been successful in building affordable housing in Massachusetts. According to one study, in the first thirty years of Chapter 40B (1969 to 1999) over 20,000 units of affordable housing were built using the law. During this timeframe, the law resulted in the construction of affordable housing in nearly half of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns.
However, because the expedited 40B permitting overrides local zoning, many cities and towns are unhappy about the loss of local control and the lack of community engagement in the process. Some are frustrated by the inability to protect local wetlands from development under the 40B regulations; others are concerned about historical preservation and the ability of communities to conduct comprehensive planning. As a result, efforts to repeal Chapter 40B in its entirety have gained strength, including a recent attempt at a citizen initiative petition to repeal the law. A sensible compromise is needed to help communities more reasonably reach the state’s 10% affordable housing requirement.
What this Bill Would Do: This bill seeks to amend Chapter 40B without detracting from its central, important mission by changing some of the factors used in calculating the ten percent, and by addressing the major concerns of lack of community involvement and engagement as well as unclear procedures.
The major components of the bill include:
- Counting 50% of the homeowner units in a 40B development as being eligible to be included toward a city or town’s affordable housing threshold. (Currently only 25% of the units are counted as affordable. This component would place 40B homeowner developments more in line with 40B rental developments, in which 100% of the units are counted as affordable).
- Counting group homes toward a city or town’s affordable housing threshold.
- Exempting municipalities from Chapter 40B developments if a community increases affordable housing production by .5 percent in a year.
- Local boards can approve or deny permit applications with conditions that are deemed consistent with local needs.
- The Housing Appeals Committee would be a seven person committee with a more diverse membership that ensures local representation.
- A bureau of CPAs will review cost certification and profit limitation requirements and conduct periodic audits of developers’ financial statements.
- Establishes a special commission to study the most appropriate punishments for developers who provide false information
View the full text of the bill and track its history here.