Housing remains a serious issue in our state and the lack of affordable housing makes it difficult for our economy to grow as it becomes difficult to find workers who can afford our high housing prices. This is a long growing issue that the Commonwealth has dealt with by passing laws like Chapter 40B which allows developers to bypass local zoning and planning laws in any city or town that does not have at least 10% of its housing designated as affordable. Quite often these types of projects, which can include hundreds of apartments or condominiums, have proven to be very disruptive and out of place in small towns with single family homes. Additionally, the additional stress and demands on our roads, school systems and water supplies are left to municipal leaders to deal with once the projects are built.
There have been many 40B projects proposed across the Commonwealth and while they can be difficult to stop it is not impossible. We should keep in mind that while Chapter 40B allows a developer the ability to ignore local zoning laws they are still bound by environmental laws, including the Wetlands Protection Act. Mass Audubon has some very good information here:
Also please keep in mind that a developer will often work with residents in reducing the size of a project and/or the number of units. The MIT Center for Real Estate has a very good analysis on this and you can read it here:
The town can also deny certain waivers if a project creates unacceptable risks to public health and safety.
Something else to consider is the fact that courts have ruled that 40B laws do not include alteration of property rights, so things like restrictive covenants cannot be waived. This came up in a 40B case in Newton and you can read about it here:
If you would like to look into the percentage of affordable units in other cities and towns throughout Massachusetts, you can find the most recent list here:
Lastly, you can find a PowerPoint presentation on how to gain safe harbor from unfriendly 40B projects here:
If you or anyone you know has any additional questions or concerns about this or any other issue please do contact me. My staff and I would be more than happy to help.