Local support can make or break new housing development, yet many communities in Massachusetts lack a strong pro-housing advocacy group.
The Municipal Engagement Initiative (MEI) believes that housing is at the center of the hub of work needed to create healthy, equitable, affordable, and vibrant communities. We understand that the benefits of providing ample affordable housing, and the consequences of not, permeate the whole community, not just individual outcomes.
Unfortunately, we often find strong and vocal opposition to affordable housing development and housing development in general at the local level that can drive decision-making, as well as a significant disconnect between publicly elected and appointed leaders and the people experiencing housing instability in many communities.
Now celebrating 5 years of action, MEI works with residents on the ground to change the conversation and support existing local efforts in favor of more affordable housing. MEI brings together diverse coalitions, provides education and resources, helps residents build consensus, bridges any gaps between a general lack of understanding about affordable housing and potential solutions, and changes local conversations about affordable housing to be more positive.
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 Monica Keel, Municipal Engagement Program Associate. You can also set up Office Hours with Monica via Calendly.
Municipal Engagement Initiative Community Application
We are pleased to announce that CHAPA is currently seeking additional communities on a rolling basis for our MEI Lite Program, a lighter touch program of our Municipal Engagement Initiative, that will help to set communities up for coalition building efforts on their own. Municipal governments and community organizations throughout the Commonwealth are encouraged to submit an application.
Applicants must submit an electronic copy of the application to Dana LeWinter, Director of Municipal Engagement, at email@example.com. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and may be prioritized based on when they are received or community fit.
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:
- Market Conditions to support Housing Production and Affordable Housing
- 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
- Welcomed by Municipality at some level (Mayor, Town Manager, ZBA, Planning Staff, Fair Housing Commission, etc.)
- Trigger: New Zoning proposal, specific site changing hands, public site available for affordable housing, new leadership, new regulation or policy being explored
- Past Effort: Consideration will be gievn to past efforts, barriers, challenges, and potential for impact
- Collaboration with other Technical Assistance efforts: The MEI seeks to coordinate efforts with other technical assistance providers to maximize impact.
Both Municipal Governments and Community Groups may apply.
Municipal Engagement Initiative Lite
The Municipal Engagement Initiative is typically an intensive year-long collaboration between the municipality, CHAPA, and the emerging stakeholder group. However, many communities need help getting their efforts launched without ongoing, long-term assistance. Through the MEI Lite, CHAPA will help a community to create a stakeholder list, begin outreach, hold and facilitate a coalition launch meeting, and provide some ideas of next steps as the coalition grows and evolves.
For communities who are interested in forming a housing coalition and would like assistance from the MEI Lite program, we've put together a housing coalition launch toolkit or you can apply for our MEI Lite Program.
- Housing for All in Acton supported the successful expansion of the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Bylaw and disposition of a town-owned parcel for affordable housing.
- Equitable Arlington and the Town of Arlington supported the successful passage of an ADU bylaw and undertook a Fair Housing Study.
- Housing Medford supported the creation of Medford’s first Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance and
- Engine 6 and Livable Newton supported significant developments at Riverside and reuse of the Armory for affordable housing, and led the way on an historic win to ensure multi-family development at Northland. They also supported amendments to the Newton ADU law to make it easier to build.
- The Amherst Affordable Housing Coalition successfully advocated for allocation of CPA funds to support new affordable housing by Valley CDC and fought back opposing neighbors to advance the development.
- The Essex Housing Coalition passed its first major rezoning to allow mixed-use, multi-family housing in its downtown district and created a new Essex Affordable Housing Coalition.
- The Foxborough Housing Coalition advocated for affordable housing development on land owned by the Foxborough Housing Authority.
- The Lynn Housing Coalition advocated for passage of their first Housing Production Plan, including significant emphasis on deep affordability through Inclusionary Zoning and additional funding. Lynn adopted its first Inclusionary Zoning Program after identifying it as a key strategy in their HPP.
- The Revere Housing Coalition advocated for the creation of an Office of Housing Stability, the creation of the Revere Affordable Housing Trust, and continues to advocate for adoption of Inclusionary Zoning.
- Greening Greenfield is working to expand the Greenfield Homeless Shelter and building 236 new units of supportive housing next to it. An additional 65 housing units are being developed in a former Department Store building.
- Winchester passed their first ADU bylaw at town meeting after in depth discussions and organizing and launched the Winchester Housing Coalition.
- Montague issued an RFP for a parcel of municipally owned land for development of deed-restricted affordable housing.
Statewide Technical Assistance Providers
CHAPA’s MEI also serves as a convener of Metro-Boston and statewide organizations working in local communities to coordinate among organizations working in partnership. 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.
- Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP)
- Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC)
- Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance (MSGA)
- Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
- MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)
- MA Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA)
- Governor’s Office
- Abundant Housing Massachusetts
Check out these additional tools and resources:
- Housing Toolbox for Massachusetts Communities from MHP and CHAPA
- DataTown from MHP
- Metro Mayor's Regional Housing Task Force's Housing Strategies Toolkit from MAPC
- Piecing It Together: A Framing Playbook for Affordable Housing Advocates from Frameworks Institute and Enterprise Community Partners
- Local Housing Solutions from The Community of Practice on Local Housing Strategies
- Housing Choice Resources
- Residensity from MHP
- Todex from MHP
- Affordable Housing 101 from CHAPA
- Confronting The History of Housing Discrimination from CHAPA and JALSA
- The CaseMade
- Housing Politics Lab from Boston University
- MBTA Communities Webinar from MHP