Municipal Engagement Initiative

Local support can make or break new housing development, yet many communities in Massachusetts lack a strong pro-housing advocacy group.

Each year, many cities and towns across the state attempt but are unsuccessful in moving their affordable housing agendas forward due to significant opposition. Recent research out of Boston University shows the majority of comments made at public development meetings are in opposition to new housing, but these comments don’t actually represent the diversity of viewpoints in the community (see more on this in The Boston Globe).

Founded in 2018, our Municipal Engagement Initiative (MEI) works with residents on the ground to change the conversation and support existing local efforts in favor of more affordable housing. Each city or town has its unique housing challenges, so we focus on bringing together local businesses, civic groups, houses of worship, and other groups and individuals that are active in their community to build coalitions of support for affordable housing production.

Some of our achievements in just the first year include:

  • We facilitated the creation of six housing advocacy groups and coalitions, which have had significant wins:
    • Housing for All in Acton supported the successful passage of 3 key initiatives at Spring Town Meeting, including an expansion of Accessory Dwelling Units and disposition of a town-owned parcel for affordable housing
    • Housing Medford supported the creation of Medford’s first Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance
    • Engine 6 and Livable Newton are engaging more diverse groups in their support of significant developments at Riverside and the Armory
    • The Amherst Affordable Housing Coalition successfully advocated for allocation of CPA funds to support new affordable housing by Valley CDC
    • The Town of Essex is engaging in more conversations about affordable housing, housing in its downtown district, and housing’s impacts on local businesses
    • The Town of Arlington is actively pursuing strategies to increase affordability and increasing mixed-use development along the Mass Ave corridor, and local residents have created an advocacy group, Equitable Arlington, to bring more Arlington residents into this work
  • We hosted multiple forums throughout the state to continue conversations about who is participating in local housing decisions, how fair housing needs to be incorporated at all stages of work, and how local communities can adopt zoning changes to increase affordability

Change happens when communities come together.

Help CHAPA have an impact at the local level - tell us where you live!

We need your help to make a difference. If you are interested in receiving a notification when we are working in your community through coalition building, legislative efforts, and local training and events, please complete this form to let us know where you live.

For more information or to get involved with our MEI work, contact Whitney Demetrius, Municipal Engagement Program Associate.

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Municipal Engagement Initiative Community Application

The application process for the current round of Municipal Engagement Initiative Communities is now closed. If you have any questions, please contact Dana LeWinter, Municipal Engagement Director, at dlewinter@chapa.org.

In addition to meeting the required criteria outlined below, all applications should align with CHAPA’s mission to encourage the production and preservation of housing that is affordable to low and moderate income families and individuals and to foster diverse and sustainable communities through planning and community development.

Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

Required:

  1. Market Conditions to support Housing Production and Affordable Housing
  2. Additional Conditions needed to build support. Examples of conditions that indicate need may include, but are not limited to:
    • Municipal staff seeking assistance to engage community around housing production and affordable housing,
    • Local advocacy or community group seeking assistance to engage community,
    • No existing coalition,
    • High level of organized opposition preventing municipality from moving forward with efforts to produce housing,
    • Close votes on zoning and development proposals, or
    • Missed opportunities identified
  3. Welcomed by Municipality at some level (Mayor, Town Manager, ZBA, Planning Staff, Fair Housing Commission, etc.)

Additional Considerations:

  1. Trigger: New Zoning proposal, specific site changing hands, public site available for affordable housing, new leadership, new regulation or policy being explored
  2. Past Effort: Consideration will be gievn to past efforts, barriers, challenges, and potential for impact
  3. Collaboration with other Technical Assistance efforts: The MEI seeks to coordinate efforts with other technical assistance providers to maximize impact

Note: Attention will be paid to reaching communities of different sizes, geographies and stages of housing production activity, but this will not be the only criteria.

Both Municipal Governments and Community Groups may apply.

 

Statewide Technical Assistance Providers

In addition to the lessons learned from work on the ground, CHAPA will convene meetings of Metro-Boston and statewide organizations working in local communities.  Meetings will provide opportunities for organizations to share information on their models and progress as well as to coordinate work between groups who are doing work simultaneously in particular communities. By coordinating efforts, the various Technical Assistance Providers can better serve communities and work together to address challenges. To learn more about each Technical Assistance Provider, their services and funding opportunities, please use the links below.

Additional Resources

The Department of Housing and Community Development and CHAPA's Municipal Engagement Initiative have worked collaboratively to create a comprehensive compilation of technical assistance and grants for housing and planning, in an effort to assist communities in accessing state resources, as well as resources from state partner agencies and non-profits. The searchable Excel spreadsheet includes 14 programs and covers all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, even if they have not received a recent grant or technical assistance. You can view the searchable database and more info on the collaborative effort at the Housing Choice Initiative webpage.
 
The Municipal Engagement Initiative was pleased to host Katherine Levine Einstein of BU to share the report "Who Participates in Local Government? Evidence from Meeting Minutes" along with a moderated discussion by a panel of practitioners on November 7, 2018. Learn more about the "Who is the M in NIMBY?" Breakfast Forum.
 
Check out these additional tools and resources: