On Monday, NAIOP was pleased to join Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay to support a new initiative to increase housing production in the Commonwealth. The Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative creates a new system of incentives and rewards for municipalities that deliver sustainable housing growth. It also creates a new technical assistance toolbox to empower cities and towns to plan for new housing production and proposes legislative changes, through An Act to Promote Housing Choices, to deliver smart, effective zoning at the local level. (A section by section summary of the bill is also available.)
NAIOP believes the production of workforce housing is critical for the continued growth of the Massachusetts economy and we are pleased to support this initiative. Unlike the extremely problematic zoning legislation that is supported by planners and environmental groups and opposed by the real estate industry and municipalities, this bill does not include language that would hinder the production of housing. Instead, it rewards communities that are producing new housing units and have adopted certain best practices with a new Housing Choice Designation.
Cities and towns that receive the Housing Choice Designation will be eligible for new financial resources, including exclusive access to new Housing Choice Capital Grants, and preferential treatment for many state grant and capital funding programs, including MassWorks, Complete Streets, MassDOT capital projects and PARC and LAND grants.
Under the legislation, the following local zoning changes would require only a majority vote of the local legislative body:
- Reducing dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes, to allow homes to be built closer together.
- Reducing required parking ratios, which can lower the cost of building new housing and accommodate development on a smaller footprint.
- Creating mixed-use zoning in town centers, and creating multi-family and starter home zoning in town centers, near transit, and in other smart locations.
- Adopting “Natural Resource Protection Zoning” and “Open Space Residential Development.” These zoning techniques allow the clustering of new development while protecting open space or conservation land.
- Adopting provisions for Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), which protects open space while creating more density in suitable locations.
- Adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning, which provides incentives for dense, mixed-use development in town centers, near transit, and in other “smart” locations.
- Allowing accessory dwelling units or “in-law” apartments – small apartments in the same building or on the same lot as an existing home.
- Allowing for increased density through a Special Permit process promoting more flexible development.
While it does not mandate that any town adopt these zoning best practices, it does remove the barrier of having to convince a supermajority of the legislative body to adopt them.
Unlike the zoning bills referenced above, this bill has the support of all of the key players – municipalities, business groups, housing advocates, environmental groups, and real estate. NAIOP looks forward to working with the Baker Administration and the legislature to advance this important legislation, which will be an important step in truly addressing the housing crisis facing Massachusetts.