Governor Baker Refiles Housing Choice Legislation

On February 27, 2019, Governor Baker refiled Housing Choice legislation. The bill is to further the administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, a plan to support the production of 135,000 new housing units by 2025. This bill builds on efforts undertaken last legislative session to deliver necessary, targeted zoning reform to benefit communities pursuing new housing production.

The Baker-Polito Administration developed the Housing Choice Initiative to offer a combination of incentives, technical assistance and new capital grant funding to facilitate community-led housing production across the Commonwealth. 

This legislation will enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing development by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. This legislation will not mandate cities and towns to make any of these zoning changes; but will allow municipalities that want to rezone for denser, transit or downtown oriented, and new housing development to do so more easily.

Zoning changes that promote best practices for housing growth that would qualify for the simple majority threshold include:

  • Building mixed-use, multi-family, and starter homes, and adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning in town centers and near transit.
  • Allowing the development of accessory dwelling units, or “in-law” apartments.
  • Approving Smart Growth or Starter Homes districts that put housing near existing activity centers.
  • Granting increased density through a special permit process.
  • Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning.
  • Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.

This legislation also includes a provision, added by the Joint Committee on Housing, that would reduce the voting threshold for a special permit issued by a local permit granting authority to a simple majority vote, for certain multi-family or mixed-use projects with at least 10% affordable units in locations near transit or in centers of commercial activity within a municipality.

For the Governor's press release from the bill filing, click here.