On Wednesday, September 28 AHMA hosted a Member’s Forum: MBTA Communities: Next Steps for Advocates towards implementation! Over 50 members from across 13 cities and towns attended and left inspired and prepared for action with advocacy strategies, new community connections and more!
Weren’t able to attend via zoom? No worries! Keep scrolling for the advocacy tools, presentations resources shared as well as the full recording via YouTube.
If you are a member of an MBTA Community, here are your next steps…
AHMA’s framework for local advocacy is a collection of common organizing strategizing and power mapping tools while including resources to help you take action. This framework includes further links. Including…
AHMA’s FAQ/Frequent rebuttals to the MBTA guidelines. This document is a work-in-progress and more content, including questions asked at the event, will be added.
Last week we asked you to reach out to your State Representative in support of Rep Andy Vargas’ Amendment to the House economic development bond bill, legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) statewide. Now we need you to reach out to your state senators!
Thanks to your actions, nearly 100 letters were sent to House members last week and over 25 Representatives joined as co-sponsors of the amendment allowing ADUs by-right in almost every city and town in MA. We were disappointed that, despite the support we rallied in support of legalizing ADUs, this amendment was not included in the House economic development bill.
Fortunately, Senator Brendan Crightonhas filed ADU legalization as an amendment to the Senate version of the economic development bill. With the Senate scheduled to vote on a final economic development bill this Thursday (7/21), it’s important we act right away.
Massachusetts currently faces a housing shortage of more than 200,000 homes and our low-income communities are facing the brunt of this shortage. ADU’s are a gentle way for communities to add new homes. They keep seniors in their communities by providing a space for a caregiver or supplemental income; they help families stay together by providing housing for grandparents, recent graduates, or loved ones with disabilities. ADU’s provide the flexibility that homeowners need all while adding much needed rental homes to the community.
Tomorrow (7/13) the MA House of Representatives begins debating the biennial Economic Development bill. AHMA staff has been working with Representative Andy Vargas to submit an amendment to the bill that will legalize Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) by-right, in communities across the Commonwealth.
AHMA is asking you to immediately reach out to your State Representative, to let them know you support this amendment (#439, “Legalization of accessory dwelling units”),and asking them to co-sponsor and vote in favor of this amendment. This should take less than 5 minutes!
Massachusetts currently faces a housing shortage of more than 200,000 homes and our low-income communities are facing the brunt of this shortage. ADUs are a gentle way for communities to add new homes.They keep seniors in their communities by providing a space for a caregiver or supplemental income; they help families stay together by providing housing for grandparents, recent graduates, or loved ones with disabilities. ADUs provide the flexibility that homeowners need all while adding much needed rental homes to the community.
AARP is a national leader in advocating for ADUs, and produced this helpful guidebook, as well as the infographic above, to explain the importance of ADUs and how they expand housing opportunities for people of all ages.
Rep. Vargas’ ADU amendment to the Eco Dev bill is similar to provisions of HB1448/SB871, the big toolkit of zoning reform that MA needs to build more affordable homes, which we emailed you about on Monday. AHMA continues to ask for your action in support of that bill in the form of phone calls to your legislators, however, we have the opportunity to more immediately pass this standalone ADU legalization. AHMA will continue to advocate for passage of the broader HB1448/SB871 bills during the remainder of this legislative session, as they incorporate other critical provisions such as establishing a statewide housing production goal, requiring zoning for multifamily homes near more transit stations statewide, and more.
We are running out of time to pass H1448/S871, the big toolkit MA needs to build more homes.
Many of you signed our petition to legislative leadership asking them to advance this bill, and AHMA recently delivered over 400 signatures to leadership on Beacon Hill (see photo). Unfortunately, we’re hearing that the Senate President, House Speaker, and the Ways & Means committee chairmen who all have influence on the next steps for this important bill are not hearing from enough of their own members to advance the bill.
AHMA is asking you to take action, before July 19, to make a phone call to your State Representative and Senator, asking them to reach out to House or Senate leadership and tell them how important this bill is to their constituents. Click here for our script to guide your conversation or voice message.
Please take the pledge to let us know you’ll be making these important calls! When complete, please visit this form and let us know the outcome of your conversation.
Click here to view AHMA’s fact sheetabout this important bill!
Defend the ‘MBTA Communities’ multifamily zoning law to build a more equitable Massachusetts
The critical MBTA Communities law is under attack, and we need you to help defend it by sending a supportive Letter to the Editor of your community’s newspaper.
AHMA has been a strong supporter of the “MBTA Communities” multifamily zoning law, passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor in 2021 and now being implemented by the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED). This law requires 175 communities of eastern and central Massachusetts to adopt zoning districts where triple deckers, townhomes, apartments buildings and other types of multi family homes can be built. These guidelines represent an important step towards building a more equitable and affordable region for all our neighbors and our growing population. Click here to read AHMA’s statement on the draft EOHED guidelines implementing this law.
Unfortunately, the Boston Globe recently revealed that many of the 175 cities and towns impacted by this law have expressed opposition to EOHED’s draft guidelines, and that some communities are considering simply not complying with their legal obligation under the MBTA Communities law. But while the Globe article focused on opposition to the law, we know that AHMA and partner organizations – plus concerned residents from around the region – have expressed their support for this law as an important step towards building the homes needed for a more affordable Greater Boston region.
Pro-housing advocates across the 175 MBTA Communities need to continue making our voice heard. Let’s tell our communities how important it is for each city and town to meet its obligations to zone for more neighbors.We need you to write a letter to the editor, for a local paper of your choice this week!
In December the MA Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) released draft guidelines implementing the new state law requiring the 175 cities and towns comprising “MBTA Communities” to zone for multifamily near public transportation. This law is an important step forward for housing equity and affordability that can lead to more housing choice across eastern and central Massachusetts, especially in some of our most exclusionary suburbs. Abundant Housing MA released this public statement on the draft guidelines and submitted supportive comments to DHCD.
While DHCD plans to finalize the guidelines over the summer, many AHMA members are already beginning conversations about how best to engage their municipalities in adopting these required multifamily zoning districts.Leaders in some communities are already wondering publicly whether their communities can shirk their responsibility under this law, so strong advocacy from grassroots pro-housing activists will be necessary across all 175 MBTA communities.
Our members-only event will begin with a briefing from Boston Indicators on DHCD’s draft guidelines and then continue with collective strategizing and capacity building to prepare activists for what could be difficult conversations in their cities and towns. We will:
Share a roadmap of action steps and tools (such as a template letter/guides, etc.) you can use for your advocacy purposes.
Engage in strategy and power mapping exercises to help you understand the best approach in your community.
Hear from AHMA members already engaged in advocacy efforts in their city about how they’ve approached this conversation and their lessons learned so far.
This event is for AHMA members-only! If you would like to participate but have not yet joined AHMA membership is open to all! Click here to join us, or, send us an email to confirm if your membership is active.
Whether or not you’re planning to attend this meeting, we hope you’ll complete this survey to help us better understand the conversations that may be happing in your town about the MBTA communities law and DHCD’s draft guidelines so that we can best develop and the strategic support you may need moving forward.
I am writing on behalf of Abundant Housing MA (AHMA), a statewide coalition of grassroots pro-housing advocates working to build open and welcoming communities across our Commonwealth.
AHMA is broadly supportive of DHCD’s’ draft guidelines for compliance with the multi-family zoning requirements of new Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A. These draft guidelines are a critical starting point for the important planning conversation that 175 impacted communities across the Greater Boston region must initiate soon. AHMA encourages DHCD to avoid watering down any final draft in response to comments seeking to retain more “local control.” DHCD has provided adequate flexibility to communities in terms of density, sizing, and location of zoning districts in compliance with the Section 3A law.
In recognition that every town has a role to play in addressing our housing crisis, AHMA appreciates that the DHCD’s draft guidelines set ambitious, town-by-town zoned capacity targets. For too long, the task of building the homes demanded by Greater Boston’s growing population has fallen to a handful of cities. The establishment of clear targets for each community is a recognition of the shared responsibility to build more open and welcoming neighborhoods across the region.
In addition, DHCD takes a rational approach in ratcheting down the zoned capacity for communities according to the type of transit service available, and concentrating that development near public transportation stations where available. Focusing new housing around public transportation helps ensure a sustainable future for communities and their residents by allowing greater freedom of choice to eliminate or reduce dependence on cars and fossil-fuel infrastructure. While every MBTA community has a role to play in meeting regional housing needs, it makes sense to direct the greatest potential for new units under the law towards the areas with the highest capacity of public transportation service.
AHMA encourages DHCD to consider the following items to further strengthen the final version of these guidelines:
By calculating each town’s target zoned capacity based on their existing unit count, communities that have built more homes in recent years are expected to do even more relative to other communities with comparable public transportation types. DHCD might consider recent past housing production in each community, and apply some additional multiplier to bring the zoned capacity target for these types of communities into balance.
DHCD should adopt standards to use when analyzing these new zoning districts for compliance, to ensure that any development produced in these zones is easily accessible to and from public transportation. It is not enough to require new housing to be near public transportation if that housing will be functionally inaccessible or not easily accessible for reasons such as highways or infrastructure.
This law and these guidelines will only work when the zoning districts are written to succeed. DHCD should state explicitly in the guidelines that the agency will consider zoning non-compliant with the law if it applies any unusual standards that effectively delay or discourage development in these districts.
AHMA is concerned with rhetoric we’ve heard recently from policy makers in some communities suggesting that their communities can afford to forgo compliance with the law. While the specific funding programs for which communities become ineligible if they do not comply are detailed in the Section 3A law, DHCD does include language at the end of draft guidelines maintaining that “DHCD may, in its discretion, take non-compliance into consideration when making other discretionary grant awards.” This is an important statement and we encourage DHCD, to the extent feasible under the law, to formally incorporate compliance with Section 3A into award criteria under other community development planning and funding programs it administers. Additionally, as the Section 3A law requires DHCD to consult with MassDOT to promulgate these guidelines, the agencies should develop standards by which compliance with Section 3A will be considered for discretionary funding programs administered by MassDOT.
On December 15, 2021 the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) released draft guidelines for implementing the new law that requires 175 cities and towns in the MBTA region (“MBTA communities”) to adopt zoning districts that allow the as-of-right development of new multifamily homes near public transportation. These guidelines represent an important step towards building a more equitable and affordable region for all households, but ultimately their success depends on how they are embraced by local policy makers.
AHMA is broadly supportive of the draft guidelines and we believe that they should be a starting point for the important planning conversation that 175 impacted communities across the Greater Boston region must initiate soon. AHMA encourages DHCD to avoid watering down any final draft in response to comments received from stakeholders whose power rests in local control of exclusionary zoning.
In recognition that every town has a role to play in addressing our housing crisis, AHMA appreciates that the DHCD’s draft guidelines set ambitious, town-by-town targets for the number of multi-family homes for which each community must zone (“zoned capacity)”. For too long, the task of building the homes demanded by Greater Boston’s growing population has fallen to a handful of cities. The establishment of clear targets for each community is a recognition of the shared responsibility to build more open and welcoming neighborhoods across the region.
Ultimately, it’s hard to predict the real-world implications of these necessarily complex and layered draft guidelines until they are finalized and communities begin the process of adopting compliant zoning. Unfortunately, we’ve already heard from city councilors, selectpeople, and planning board members around the region questioning the need for their particular community to comply. Under the law governing these guidelines, cities and towns become ineligible for certain state infrastructure and housing planning grants if they do not comply. However, as an analysis by Boston Indicators illustrates, many communities covered by the law have not received the applicable state grants in recent years. Certain local officials have raised the idea that they may choose not to comply because these grants are not financially necessary to their towns.
Make no mistake: it is simply not acceptable for any community – particularly the most wealthy, racially segregated communities in our region which perpetuate their own segregated demographics by limiting housing choices through exclusionary zoning schemes – to shirk their responsibility under this shared effort. As one Newton City Councilor recently said, choosing not to comply because her wealthy city may be able to afford forgoing the state grants, would be tantamount, and similarly ethically dubious, to an able-bodied person “parking in a handicap spot because you can afford the ticket.”
While DHCD’s timeline for finalizing the implementation guidelines and the local Town Meeting schedule in many communities means that some towns may not be able to adopt the required multi-family zoning until 2023, AHMA will monitor compliance with this law in the months and years to come. If ineligibility for specific infrastructure and housing grants is not a significant enough carrot to ensure all communities comply, AHMA will propose and advocate for specific changes to the underlying law in future legislative sessions to mandate greater compliance.
AHMA believes that Massachusetts is for everyone. We are working to ensure that every community in Massachusetts is open and welcoming to all, regardless of race, income, age, ability, or other life experience. Key to this vision is a recognition that every city and town has a role to play in affordably, equitably, and sustainably housing Massachusetts’ current and future residents.
We need your state representative and senator to co-sponsor and support key legislation and we’ve launched this letter-writing campaign to help you do just that. We invite you to sign and share.
(H.1448/S.871) An Act Relative to Housing Production will increase the production of affordable homes, remove restrictive zoning barriers, and proposes innovative solutions for land use in MA.The final day for bills to be reported out favorably by joint committees at the statehouse is February 2nd.
With this fast-approaching deadline, we need all hands on deck to ensure that our state delegation prioritizes our housing policy needs.
This letter also references AHMA’s legislative priorities, which are centered on building the homes we need to house our state’s growing population, stabilizing communities through stronger tenant protections, and desegregating our cities and towns by eliminating racial and class disparities in access to housing, financial lending, education, and more.
CALLS FOR MAYOR WU AND CITY COUNCIL TO URGENTLY ADDRESS HOLDOVER BOARD POSITIONS, CODIFY NEW BY-RIGHT HOUSING IN WALKABLE, TRANSIT RICH SECTIONS OF CITY
Abundant Housing MA (AHMA) stands with our members from WalkUP Roslindale, with other neighbors in Roslindale, and across the City of Boston in denouncing Tuesday’s decision by the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to reject the zoning relief application for the proposed development at 4198 Washington Street in Roslindale Square.
AHMA believes that Massachusetts is for everyone. We work to ensure that every community in Massachusetts is open and welcoming to all households regardless of race, income, age, ability or any other life circumstance. We envision a housing market in Massachusetts that lets people move where they want, when they want, not when they have to. To achieve an equitable, affordable and environmentally sustainable Massachusetts and Boston we must build more homes of all types, shapes, and sizes near jobs, services, transportation and other existing infrastructure.
The proposed development at 4198 Washington Street would help Boston achieve this vision. By locating in the transit-rich Roslindale Square neighborhood and not building on-site parking, the developers would have been able to achieve the following community benefits:
42% of the 31 total homes built in this development would be affordable to low- and moderate-income households, far exceeding the 13% requirement under Boston’s Inclusionary Development Program (IDP);
A brand new, larger space for Rozzie Square Theater, the only woman of color-owned improv theater in Boston;
Right-to-return and below market rate rents for existing commercial tenants like Delicious Yogurt; and,
Leveraging the site’s location in a highly transit-oriented neighborhood with commuter rail and multiple high-frequency bus routes and a pledge by the developer to subsidize CharlieCards for the future residents.
As a result of the misguided ZBA decision to deny the project with prejudice, the developer cannot bring this project back to the ZBA for at least one year. If they choose to re-apply, they will be required to include parking which will likely mean the elimination of a number of affordable homes and the below market rate commercial rents. It will also result in more traffic congestion on local streets around Roslindale Square.
Rather than being denied by the ZBA, the 4198 Washington Street proposal should be a precedent for the type of inclusive, affordable, and sustainable housing and commercial development that we need across the City of Boston. This is why many Roslindale residents spoke up to support this project during the community process, and why elected officials including District 5 City Councilor Ricard Arroyo, Former Mayor Kim Janey, and At Large City Councilor Julia Mejia all supported this proposal.
It is symbolic that this denial came from the ZBA almost to the hour that Mayor Wu took the oath of office. AHMA agrees with Mayor Wu who in the past has raised concern about the frequent need for zoning variances to approve new development in Boston and the arbitrary and capricious standards for granting them. The ZBA denial of variances for the 4198 Washington Street development is the latest in a string of incidents where Boston’s inability to enact zoning that serves the needs of our growing city resulted in actions that run counter to our community’s interests and values. Boston needs new zoning laws; in their absence, it needs fair and transparent standards for the granting of variances, reflecting the community planning and review work done by the BPDA.
AHMA calls upon Mayor Wu and the City Council to:
Urgently work to fill the 11 ZBA vacancies with experts & community members who reflect the diversity of lifestyles in Boston and who prioritize abundant and affordable homes in all neighborhoods.
Codify zoning rules that make approvals by-right for infill development without costly parking mandates that reduce affordability and sustainability in existing dense, transit rich neighborhoods, especially for projects with a substantial affordable component.