Baker-Polito Administration Announces New Housing Choice Initiative


Initiative will spur significant housing production, and provide municipalities with tools and incentives to drive the creation of 135,000 new units by 2025

BOSTON – (RealEstateRama) — The Baker-Polito Administration announced a comprehensive new initiative to substantially increase housing production across the Commonwealth. The Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative creates a new system of incentives and rewards for municipalities that deliver sustainable housing growth; 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.

Massachusetts home prices have increased at the fastest rate in the nation, and metropolitan Boston rent prices rank among the highest in the country. In order to address the challenges facing Massachusetts, the Housing Choice Initiative will deliver more than $10 million in incentives, grant funding and technical assistance per year, and enable Massachusetts to realize a new goal of creating 135,000 new housing units by 2025.

“Our growing economy demands a robust and diverse supply of housing to support the Commonwealth’s continued growth and success,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This initiative will maximize collaboration between state agencies, support innovation and data-driven policies, and provide municipalities with the user-friendly tools needed to create more housing where it’s needed. We look forward to working with the legislature and partnering with cities and towns to deliver much needed housing to regions across Massachusetts, while respecting our long-standing home rule tradition.”

“The Housing Choice Initiative we announced today will ensure that Massachusetts remains a great place to live, raise a family, and grow a business by removing barriers to responsible housing development,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “The Commonwealth’s cities and towns are instrumental in our efforts to create more housing, and the Housing Choice Initiative will provide municipalities with the tools and incentives needed to drive meaningful housing production that is appropriate for their community, maximizes land-use and creates opportunities for smart development.”

Modeled after Massachusetts’ successful Green Communities program, The Housing Choice Initiative will provide a powerful new set of incentive-based tools for local governments. The Housing Choice Initiative will reward communities that are producing new housing units and have adopted best practices to promote sustainable housing development, use land efficiently, protect natural resources and conserve energy, with a new Housing Choice designation. The Housing Choice Designation is designed to be simple, flexible and achievable for municipalities. 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.

“Access to affordable housing is one of the greatest challenges facing cities across the Commonwealth,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “I am proud of our work in Boston in teaming up with other cities across the region to increase our affordable housing stock and continue creating homes for all. Together with the support of the Commonwealth through the new Housing Choice Initiative, cities and towns, including Boston, will have a new set of tools at our disposal to continue delivering more housing for the people we serve.”

“Our region is in a housing crisis. Solving it will require bold action and a comprehensive solution set,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone, City of Somerville and Chair of the Metro Mayor’s Coalition. “That is why the Metro Mayors Coalition just this month launched a regional housing partnership. And that’s why I’m thrilled that Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito are creating the Housing Choice program and filing legislation to spur the production of housing for people across the economic spectrum. I support this program and endorse the legislation, and I’m excited to work with the Administration so the region and the Commonwealth can lead the way in tackling the most pressing issue we face today.”

“The Baker-Polito Administration is to be congratulated for its Housing Choice program which creates incentives for cities and towns to expand housing opportunities for those who live and work in our communities,” said Littleton Town Administrator Keith Bergman, who serves also as President of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.  “Littleton has a strong housing market and its total housing stock has increased by over 10% since 2010. Littleton’s subsidized housing inventory of 12.9% surpasses the 10% goal under Chapter 40B.  The Town is committed to remaining above that goal by being proactive.  With the leadership of its Board of Selectmen and Planning Board, town meeting voters recently approved a package of housing strategies contained in the Town’s updated Master Plan, including many best practices of the Housing Choice program.”

“The  South Shore Chamber of Commerce views new housing as an economic development tool for the suburbs,” said Peter Forman, President & CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. “The Administration’s proposal will help towns create a housing agenda that makes sense for their own communities rather than having the state set zoning decisions for them.”

The Housing Choice Initiative introduces new and better coordinated technical assistance for municipalities to reach housing production goals and pursue a Housing Choice Program Designation. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will provide communities with a clear, single-entry point for coordinated technical assistance across agencies. In coordination with the Housing Choice Initiative, MassHousing will make $2 million in new technical assistance funding available, to help communities progress toward and achieve housing production goals under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law. The Housing Choice Initiative will also track progress towards a new statewide goal of producing 135,000 new housing units by 2025, to ensure that new housing production keeps pace with projected increases in housing demand.

“We are committed to supporting inclusive communities throughout the Commonwealth, and increasing housing production at every level is a critical component of this effort. This initiative will support a healthy housing market that meets the needs of our diverse population, including our young families, older adults and growing workforce,” said Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay. “We are excited to provide this new set of tools to give communities more resources, and work closely with cities and towns to achieve this ambitious housing production goal.”

“MassHousing is excited to support the Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, by committing $2 million in new funding to help cities and towns deliver new housing that is consistent with their local planning goals,” said MassHousing Acting Executive Director Tom Lyons. “Our new Planning for Housing Production Program will help make Chapter 40B development less contentious and more collaborative, by empowering municipalities to implement housing solutions driven by local goals and values.”

As part of the Housing Choice Initiative, the Administration is proposing legislation that will remove barriers to improved land use and new housing, by promoting the adoption of local zoning best practices. This legislative proposal, An Act to Promote Housing Choices, would allow cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. Massachusetts is currently one of only ten states to require a supermajority to change local zoning; all other northeastern states rezone through simple majority votes.

Zoning changes that promote best practices that would qualify for the simple majority threshold include:

  • Building mixed-use, multi-family, and starter homes, and adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning in town centers and near transit;
  • Allowing the development of accessory dwelling units, or “in-law” apartments;
  • Granting increased density through a special permit process;
  • Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning; and
  • Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.

An Act to Promote Housing Choices does not mandate that cities and towns make any of these zoning changes. The legislation allows municipalities that want to rezone for responsible housing growth to do so more easily, and in a way that is consistent with peer states.

The Baker-Polito Administration today also announced $1,296,219 in grant funding for 37 projects through the new Planning Assistance Grant Program. Funded through spending authorized in the Environmental Bond Bill, the Planning Assistance Grant Program is part of an effort to encourage municipalities to implement land use regulations that are consistent with the Baker-Polito Administration’s land conservation and development objectives including reduction of land, energy, and natural resource consumption, provision of sufficient and diverse housing, and mitigation of and preparation for climate change.

The Baker-Polito Administration is deeply committed to meeting this housing challenge, through key investments, new initiatives and program reforms. In April, Governor Baker filed a housing bond bill seeking $1.287 billion in additional capital authorization to advance the administration’s commitment to affordable housing and we have increased funding for affordable housing by 19% and is on course to invest $1.1 billion over five years in affordable housing. The highly effective MassWorks Infrastructure Program continues to be a key catalyst for housing production, supporting the creation of more than 3,000 housing units. The Open for Business Initiative will drive the production of more than 2,200 units of housing on state land. MassHousing’s $100 million Workforce Housing Initiative has advanced the development of 1809 housing units across a range of incomes, including 510 workforce housing units. And, through An Act Relative to Job Creation and Workforce Development, the administration reformed the Housing Development Incentive Program, which is on track to facilitate 630 new units in Gateway Cities, and renewed our commitment to the 40R Smart Growth Zoning Program.


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