Zoning Reform Gets Another Try as Massachusetts Wrestles With Housing Crunch

Strong support for local control has made statewide legislation to address the housing affordability crisis difficult to approve in the Bay State.

1 minute read

March 20, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Prospect Hill Park, Waltham, MA

Bill Damon / Flickr

An article by Tim Logan provides evidence that Massachusetts is lagging behind the leaders in recent policy actions to spur housing production and protects tenants rights.

According to Logan, "in Massachusetts, even incremental legislation that aims to make it easier for towns to change their own zoning has proved to be a challenge."

The state has another chance to jumpstart new housing and development policies, reports Logan. Governor Charlie Baker was on hand to promote the relaunch legislation that failed to achieve approval last year.

"Developers and housing advocates have long pushed for changes to state zoning rules that would encourage, or even require, more multifamily development in more places. But their efforts have repeatedly run smack into one of Massachusetts’ most-cherished governmental traditions: local control of land use and zoning in the state’s 351 cities and towns," explains Logan.

"Even at the recent State House event, with all its talk of the need for more housing, Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito stressed their background as local officials, and promised to preserve local decision-making."

In addition to the legislation supported by the Governor's Office, Logan notes several other pro-development bills currently proposed in the legislature, such as "former Housing Committee co-chair Senator Joe Boncore that would require communities with MBTA stations to have at least some areas designated for multifamily zoning."

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