On December 11th, Governor Baker announced a new initiative to spur housing production and provide municipalities with tools and incentives to create new housing. The “Housing Choice Initiative” hopes to create 135,000 new housing units by 2025.
The new initiative includes $10 million in incentives, grant money and technical assistance for cities and towns to plan for new housing production. Modeled after the Green Communities program
, The Housing Choice Initiative will provide a new set of incentive-based tools for local governments. 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.
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.
In addition, Baker has introduced new legislation An Act to Promote Housing Choices. The proposed legislation 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;
Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.
An Act to Promote Housing Choices
would not mandate that cities and towns make any of these zoning changes. The legislation allows municipalities that want to rezone for housing growth to do so more easily.