Polito Promotes Housing Choice Bill with Stop in Hyannis

Tim Dunn/CapeCod.com.

HYANNIS – Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Michael Kennealy joined Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells and other local elected officials in Hyannis Thursday to highlight the Baker Administration’s Housing Choice legislation.

The group gathered near a planned development in the east end of Hyannis for workforce housing units.  

The legislation, An Act to Promote Housing Choices, was filed by Governor Baker in February. It calls for targeted zoning reform to advance new housing production in Massachusetts and support the administration’s goal of producing 135,000 new housing units by 2025.

If passed, the bill would enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing production by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. Cities and towns will not be mandated to put these zoning changes into effect; but will be permitted to do so under the proposal.

“In order to get to that next level, you need to change the rules,” Polito said.

“Governor Baker and our team put out a bill last term and this term to help communities change their local zoning and adopt the best practices and strategies that you need in order to redesign and redevelop neighborhoods and places within your community, and be able to adopt these best practices with a simple majority vote. Because, sometimes, having a super majority, having that two-thirds threshold, is a barrier to getting the zoning changes that are needed in order to create the type of development and housing development that’s needed.”

Massachusetts is currently one of only a few states to require a super majority to change local zoning.

In a press release, the Baker Administration says “the legislation is part of the administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, which provides incentives, technical assistance, and capital grant funding to encourage new housing production that meets the long-term needs of the Commonwealth’s growing, and aging, population.”

A collection of local organizations and stakeholders were also present at the event to publicly endorse the legislation, including the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, Cape Cod Healthcare, CapeBuilt Development, and Housing Assistance Corporation.

Tim Dunn/CapeCod.com.

According the legislation, 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.

“In order for Massachusetts to continue to be a place where people will locate their business or grow their business and create more jobs, they need their employees and they need people to be able to access housing that they can afford, that’s appropriate and that will be part of the whole fabric of the community,” Polito added.

The bill also includes a provision that would reduce the voting threshold for a special permit issued by a local permit granting authority to a simple majority vote. The provision would be restricted to certain multi-family or mixed-use projects with at least 10-percent of affordable units in locations near transit or, in centers of commercial activity within a municipality.

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center 

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