Legislature’s $1.4 Billion Bond Bill Amends Controversial Chapter 40B

Madison Place 40B Project in SouthboroughThe Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives recently passed a $1.4 billion bond bill authorizing, among other things, $500 million in repairs and improvements to public housing and $305 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  While the dollar amounts of the bill have garnered most of the headlines, the bill also amends the state’s controversial Chapter 40B affordable housing law in order to promote local economic development efforts.

The amendment of Chapter 40B would give communities some measure of control (which has long been absent) over 40B projects proposed in tax increment financing (TIF) zones under G.L. c. 40, §59.  TIFs allow a municipality to provide flexible, targeted tax incentives to promote development and job creation.  As things currently stand, a 40B project can be located in any business, industrial or residential zone.  In addition, Chapter 40B generally permits a developer to avoid most local zoning bylaws if the city or town is under the 10% affordable housing threshold as determined by the Department of Housing and Community Development.  This often leads to patchwork siting of affordable housing projects in a community.  The amendment to Chapter 40B, championed by State Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood), would provide a small exception to Chapter 40B by ensuring that Chapter 40B does not trump TIF agreements under Chapter 40.  According to Rogers, “the obligations of Chapter 40B should not be allowed to supercede the application of Chapter 40.  My amendment reconciles these two laws and empowers communities to accommodate affordable housing while also promoting economic growth.”

Rogers’ amendment itself is not without controversy.  Although the amendment applies statewide, critics have charged that the amendment was designed solely to block the 296-unit Upland Woods 40B project in Norwood.  Affordable housing advocates have also attacked the amendment for undermining Chapter 40B.

The bill will next go to conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions.  Stay tuned to On Solid Ground for further news and updates on this developing story.

About David McCay

Dave is a partner in the firm’s litigation and land use groups where he assists clients in the resolution of complex real estate, environmental and business disputes. He also represents property owners, developers and municipalities in local land use permitting matters. Dave is active in the Boroughs+ region serving recently as the Chair of the Southborough Economic Development Committee and of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the 495/MetroWest Partnership and the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation. Outside of the office, Dave is an avid cyclist competing in road races and criteriums across New England. He lives in Southborough with his wife and two sons.
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