On Tuesday, November 2nd , three questions will be brought to Massachusetts voters in the form of referenda. Questions #1 and #3 pertain to taxation of alcohol and to the reduction of state sales tax, respectively. Question 2, alternatively, deals with an issue that many people dont know as much about, but which is of significant importance.
The ballot initiative would have a great effect on the types of apartments for rent in Boston, as well as the prices of these apartments, because it would repeal a 41 year-old law that allows certain zoning exemptions for housing developers that dedicate a percentage of their new housing projects to affordable housing. For example, under the existing rule, in order to avoid local zoning ordinances, luxury apartments in Boston must develop one affordable apartment for every three market-rate apartments that are built in the same project.
There is a nuanced debate underway about the effects of this law, know as Massachusetts Chapter 40B. Proponents that favor the repeal of the law, such as Affordable Housing Now, a Massachusetts activist group, argue that the law is outdated, and has had the overall effect of making Massachusetts the third most expensive state in the union in terms of housing prices.
Other proponents in favor of repeal argue that it is unfair that powerful developers can use the weight of the 40B exemption to override the wishes of local zoning boards. For example, a city planner in Bellingham, Massachusetts once commented, regarding a new 40B project: I have a lot of concerns The only reason they are going with 40B is to bypass the Planning Board.” This is a case in point where a local city planners opinion is said to have been silenced by an outside development company.
Certainly most Massachusetts residents would agree that their town councils should have a say over whether a large apartment complex is to be built in their town or not. This is the purpose of planning boards. But the other side of the coin is that residents from wealthy communities may wish to repeal the law so that they can block new construction of affordable housing within their own communities. For example, some Boston residents might support the building of a new Boston luxury rental complex, but not a building that combines high-end apartments with government subsidized housing. This thinking could have the effect of a more stratified state, in terms of the incomes and types of people that live in various towns and cities.
Still a third issue regarding the 40B repeal question is whether housing that is considered affordable by the law is actually affordable. Some residents claim that it is not, and therefore favor repeal. In the end, Massachusetts voters will make a decision on this complex issue. The results of this decision will determine whether power lies with local planning boards, or with real-estate developers that wish to build mixed-income housing.
Written by Bruce Garland for Fenway. Bruce wants to help you get the best boston luxury apartments, boston luxury rentals, and luxury apartment boston that you can through Fenway.