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Protect the Affordable Housing Law

All families should have a choice about where to live. Massachusetts' affordable-housing law requires every city and town to ensure that at least 10 percent of its homes are affordable. It encourages construction of new homes by providing a comprehensive permit and flexible zoning for developers who build affordable homes. As a result, the number of cities and towns above the 10 percent threshold has more than doubled, from 24 in 1997 to 51 today, with an additional 40 communities above 8 percent.

Support The Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (MHRTC)

The State's Historic Preservation Tax Credit will expire in 2011 unless a provision for its renewal is included in the Commonwealth's FY2011 budget. A proposal to extend this credit into 2017 is included in the Senate version of the budget but not in the House version. As both bills are currently in Conference Committee and the state's FY2011 budget will be finalized and presented to the governor by July 1, it is imperative that BSA and AIA Massachusetts members who understand the value of this tax credit, both to the design projects we have done and hope to do, contact their elected officials to express their support for this extension.

This message applies especially to constituents of the following legislators: Senator Steven Panagiotakos (Chair, Senate Ways and Means Committee and sponsor of this proposed extension), Senator Stephen Brewer, Senator Michael Knapik, Representative Charles Murphy (Chair, House Ways and Means Committee), Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Representative Brian Dempsey and Representative Antonio Cabral.

Changes in the Land: State Zoning Reform

by Andre Leroux, executive director, Mass. Smart Growth Alliance

With so many of our historic cities, towns and villages predating the automobile—and the sprawl development it fueled—Massachusetts should be one of the smart growth jewels of the country. Yet we are consuming land at a rate seven times that of our population growth.

Not only do we drive to work, but we drive to the store, to school, to the park, to church, to visit friends. Commuting accounts for only a small percentage of all trips. If it were convenient to replace even some of those other trips with alternative transportation like walking, biking or shuttle service, we could go a long way toward creating healthier, more appealing places to live as well as taking a necessary step to confront global warming. It is also the only permanent relief for rising energy costs.

However, our outdated land-use laws make it difficult, and in many places, impossible, to build walkable communities. In eastern Massachusetts outside the Boston core, only 5 percent of all residential units projected to be built from 2000 to 2030 will be on lot sizes of a quarter-acre or smaller under current trends. It is projected that nationally, we have already overbuilt the market for large homes on large lots through 2025, while we are far behind the production number of needed small-lot detached and attached dwelling units.

We have to improve the rules of the development game in Massachusetts in order to build more of the housing types that are needed.

What can we do?

The BSA is one of the founding members of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, a coalition of seven policy organizations that came together in 2003 to promote healthy and diverse communities, protect critical environmental resources and working landscapes, provide housing and transportation choices, and support equitable community development and urban reinvestment in our state.

The alliance has made zoning reform a top priority. Over the last year and a half, with leadership from the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association and the BSA, the alliance convened key stakeholders from the development, municipal and environmental sectors. This group became a Zoning Reform Task Force coordinated by Undersecretary for Business Development Greg Bialecki and has been working to develop a framework for a major legislative proposal to be filed at the end of the year, tentatively called the Land-Use Partnership Act.

Key elements of the proposal include:

  • supporting progressive municipal planning in cities and towns that opt in;
  • requiring those municipalities to change their zoning to reflect the plan;
  • identifying areas in their communities that are appropriate for compact growth;
  • passing ordinances that improve water management and preserve open space;
  • sharing new tools to manage growth and development; and
  • initiating a regional review process to encourage coordination among municipalities with regional and state objectives.

For more details about the Zoning Reform Task Force or to download the latest framework documents, visit the Massachusetts Permit Regulatory Office.

To participate in the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance’s zoning advisory group, please email me at andre@ma-smartgrowth.org or Jay Wickersham FAIA at jw@noblewickersham.com.

André Leroux
Executive Director
Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance

YOUR LEGISLATORS
Find your state rep. and senator at the MA General Court web site

HONORARY MEMBER
Lt. Governor Tim Murray (2007)

LEGISLATORS OF THE YEAR
Representative Robert DeLeo (2008)
Representative Vincent Pedone (2006)
Senator Therese Murray (2005)
Senator Dianne Wilkerson (2004)
Representative Martin J. Walsh (2004)
Sen. Steven Tolman (2003)
Sen. Marc Pacheco (2001)
Sen. Mark Montigny (2000)
Rep. Daniel E. Bosley (1999)
Rep. Joseph Sullivan (1998)
Rep. Charlotte Golar Ritchie (1997)
Sen. Robert Durand (1996)
Sen. Warren E. Tolman (1995)