Our Issues

2030 Housing Goals

We believe that the next decade in Massachusetts is crucial to creating housing that can be available to all who need it. Without reasonable changes to state and local housing regulations, we risk runaway price increases, limited options to build in areas convenient to job opportunities, and little, if any, housing availability even for those who can afford it today.

We are calling for the Commonwealth to double-down on its commitment to build housing throughout the state by creating 300,000 new units of housing by 2030. In Cambridge, where our group has initially formed, we’re calling on the City Council and the City Administration to authorize and incentivize the building of at least 5,000 units of housing by 2030, of which, 30% should be designated as low-income, moderate-income, or workforce housing.

Furthermore, there are numerous options for inclusionary housing units where market forces have created areas unreachable or unwelcoming to affordable and workforce housing residents. We must address this inequality head on, understanding that Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)-ism will be a powerful lobby against inclusionary construction in nearly every area of our cities and towns.

Our organization will advocate for brand new affordable units in every corner of the Commonwealth with the intention of bringing an end to the excuse that the ‘character of a neighborhood’ should stop low-income residents from moving in. There are innumerable options for home construction, and we believe that communities should default to building housing units, instead of searching for thin justifications to prevent them. 


Transit Oriented Development (TOD)

We must reinvest in our municipalities by providing housing options that utilize the existing benefits of built environments as well as their proximity to public transit. Building more density around transit lines and the variety of already available transportation modalities is a proven way to develop more affordable housing, create opportunity for low- and moderate-income individuals’ upward mobility, and reduce dependence on fossil fueled vehicles.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) projects are a leap forward for our municipalities, our residents and our environment. Yet because of local zoning restrictions, Massachusetts has rarely taken full advantage of this beneficial aspect of land use planning. While some bright spots have emerged in recent years, we are nowhere near where we should be in making this practice an inherent feature of our zoning codes or our housing ecosystem.

We must reinvest in the principles of TOD throughout the Commonwealth and meaningfully encourage those non-profit and for-profit entities who are willing to build in transit areas to help mitigate the effects of climate change and actively address the future of mobility.


Value Capture

In light of the TOD investment and incentives we are advocating for, we are also calling on developers, owners and lease holders to contribute to public transit along these corridors and to help improve our transportation infrastructure statewide. Any building along designated TOD development zones should (whether new construction, substantial rehabilitation, conversion or the result of a new lease agreement) contribute an appropriate percentage of income, taxes or fees to transit investment.

No matter what the methodology for collecting these contributions to our transportation system, the important aspect of this idea is to begin its implementation as soon as possible. Much like TOD, the idea of value capture has been around for many years, but seldom implemented as a funding source for improving transit. We should no longer ignore this as a potential revenue stream for a transportation system in desperate need of improvement and modernization. Without the necessary investment, transportation and mobility in the Commonwealth will only worsen. We believe value capture becomes a viable way to generate a long-term revenue source for transit as a trade-off for properly incentivized development in TOD zones.


Reduce or Eliminate Parking Requirements in Urban Areas

The next generation of tenants and homeowners have little use for single occupancy vehicles and therefore little need for parking spaces. Our environment is also desperately in search of relief from single occupancy vehicles. As a result of these well-known and well-documented factors, we propose eliminating parking space requirements or setting a maximum parking space requirement for any new building or substantial rehabilitation within a mile radius of public transit lines. By eliminating costly infrastructure parking requirements, we are lowering construction costs to make this synergistic with the development of affordability.

This policy recognizes that the future of mobility in Massachusetts will be based on an accessible and reliable pedestrian, micro mobility and public transit infrastructure that we do not currently enjoy today. In light of these conditions, we will also advocate for the funding and improvements needed in our transportation system in order to augment the elimination of parking requirements. However, we must begin adjusting to a growing market demand for parking-free homes now by jumpstarting new construction, rehabilitation or improvement to existing housing.


Lower Local Barriers to Housing

Cities and towns in Massachusetts that are attempting to do the right thing and allow more housing are being thwarted by outdated laws that require a supermajority vote of their governing bodies to approve zoning changes. Governor Baker’s Housing Choice Bill requires a simple majority to pass changes to local zoning, and not only do we support this bill, we believe it is a step Massachusetts must take to loosen the decades-old Not In My Backyard mentality that drives up costs and reduces the availability of housing.

We recognize that this is just an incremental step toward more housing creation but lowering barriers in both urban and suburban areas allows for a more regional approach to creating low-income, moderate-income, and workforce housing units. This will also result in more market-rate housing coming on line, but we cannot stand idly by while the current market-rate housing, due to its limited availability, is quickly becoming luxury-rate and thus widening the income gap. Massachusetts needs housing relief at all levels of the housing marketplace, and we believe that is a fact that we should no longer deny.

Furthermore, by lower the barriers to housing at the local levels, we can circumscribe the arguments being made in our cities from wealthy, predominantly white homeowners from creating institutional stasis (and bias) against building more housing where it is needed the most.  

We consider this principle and our support of the Governor’s Housing Choice Bill, and other policies like it, to be a generational difference between ourselves and the NIMBY movement. We believe that the demand for housing in Massachusetts has moved beyond the crisis point and addressing it with the same old policy ideas only worsens the quality of life in our state while doing nothing to address skyrocketing costs.


Overhaul Local Zoning to Elevate Affordable Housing

Zoning ordinances should enable affordable housing by making it an economically viable and sustainable model for public, non-profit, as well as private interests. Unfortunately, developers, homeowners, and even municipalities often choose the path of least resistance during the local approval process in order to reduce their exposure to increased project costs and constructions delays.

For instance, renovations of existing properties for market rate housing carry few regulatory barriers, as opposed to new construction of affordable units, whose zoning changes face unpredictable timelines and numerous additional regulatory hurdles - not to mention the typical NIMBY opposition. This ultimately creates an unintended incentive for the rehabilitation of existing housing to be sold at substantially higher prices, without expanding the amount of homes that are available.

Preserving the status quo in current zoning ordinances is what is preventing or own progress in increasing available homes and reducing housing costs. There are several ways that we can break through the status quo, and we place particular value on a model that initiates the proper development where affordability is prioritized, and project incentives are repeatable throughout the Commonwealth so that others can engage similarly in the future. 

When it comes to zoning, we must resolve to get out of our own way. Of course, regulations should exist for the protection of the rights of abutters, however, overly restrictive barriers to success should be eliminated for the sake of increasing desperately needed housing stock. We must reduce the uncertainty in local processes in order to reduce the eventual costs passed along to residents. The longer it takes to develop housing units unwittingly increases the cost of production and therefore the cost of each unit - exacerbating our housing crisis.


Infill Projects

Our housing policies should no longer miss opportunities to embrace and enhance the built environment for the benefit of housing production. By allowing more infill projects from existing owners, the cost of future ownership and rents become cheaper. This is especially true in areas that are accessible to transportation options. Homeowners, property owners and even developers should be encouraged to build upon existing structures, or existing land that they maintain, in order to take advantage of the reduced acquisition costs of those sites - while passing along those cost savings to tenants in the form of below-market rents.

However, these infill projects must add to the availability of housing stock, and not be rehabilitation projects that drive up costs without adding to the net number of available units. We should be designing our zoning to make infill a viable option for those who want to build them but allow for the density required to make affordable units a reality.


Mitigate Tenant & Landlord Disputes

Many tenants, through no fault of their own, are struggling with rising rents, poor conditions, and irresponsible landlords. There are bad actors in our real estate market and we must find the resources to enforce fairness and penalize those landlords who cause hardship. We believe that Massachusetts must implement a system that can actively mitigate tenant and landlord disputes and modify unsustainable rent increases based on need.

Fairness must be our first principle. For too long, Massachusetts has allowed the benefits of housing to flow to those who can afford it the most. Tenant protections and assistance should go directly to the neediest among us first. There is no room in our housing policies for allowing those of means to skip to the front of the line and obtain relief ahead of others. We believe tenants should be protected from not just bad landlords, but from the institutional and political bias that would cause them to be forgotten when other tenants of higher means enter into disputes.  

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Massachusetts Housing Coalition

© 2024 Massachusetts Housing Coalition, Inc.

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