Affordable housing legislation under threat
Submitted by Vivien Wu and Angie Liou of Asian Community Development Corporation
When the private market doesn’t provide basic needs for the most vulnerable members of our society, the government should step in to assist. One of these needs is affordable housing. The purpose of legislation and government officials is to facilitate how we can meet these needs as a society. However, this is currently under threat in Massachusetts.
Chapter 40B is the Mass. state law that was designed so every town does its part to meet the need for affordable housing. It says that if a town has less than 10 percent of its housing stock as affordable housing, then developers who intend to include affordable housing in their developments can build more densely than what the local zoning allows.
During this season’s legislative session, State Rep. John Rogers and state Sen. Michael Rush wrote an amendment to the Housing Bond Bill that has high potential for abuse as a tool to defeat proposed affordable housing developments in the future. If the amendment becomes law, then legislators will have a tool for killing affordable housing proposals on a case-by-case basis. State lawmakers already passed this amendment on July 30 — now only Gov. Deval Patrick has the power to veto the amendment.
The statehouse is now in informal session with no voting. The amendment bill will go before a conference committee made up of three House representatives and three Senate representatives. After the committee submits its report and the legislature approves it, it will go to Gov. Patrick.
Asian Community Development Corporation, as an organization that creates affordable housing, believes the amendment is a step in the wrong direction. While municipalities should have some autonomy in how their communities are developed, taking the power out of Chapter 40B is a bad idea. Towns that do not allow new affordable housing developments are potentially creating homogeneous communities that are not meeting all the diverse needs of its residents. While Chapter 40B is not a perfect law, the Rogers-Rush amendment does not address reforming 40B in a sensible way; instead it would create a loophole and set a precedent for denying future housing opportunities in other Massachusetts communities.
If fair access to housing opportunities is important to you, ACDC encourages you to see how your legislator voted and keep following developments as Gov. Patrick deliberates on the bills. Follow the news on the Housing Bond Bill, the Rogers-Rush amendment and other proposed amendments to 40B.
Vivien Wu is director of programs and Angie Liou is director of real estate at the Asian Community Development Corporation.
This post is also available in: Chinese