Abundant Housing MA launches organizing program to grow pro-housing movement and support MBTA Communities Law

The Barr Foundation has awarded AHMA $500,000 to support pro-housing advocates with education, organizing to build more housing opportunity in MBTA Communities across eastern and central Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts – Abundant Housing Massachusetts has been awarded a transformative grant from the Barr Foundation that will spur the launch of a new pro-housing effort in Massachusetts: the MBTA Communities organizing and education program. Through this program pro-housing advocates across eastern and central Massachusetts will be outfitted with the tools they need to educate their neighbors about how critical the MBTA communities law is to redressing legacies of racial injustice in land use through building a more affordable, climate resilient region with housing choices for everyone.

This program  will extend AHMA’s existing support of advocates to a portion of the 175 Greater Boston communities impacted by the “MBTA Communities” multifamily zoning requirement. This law was formally adopted by the state legislature as part of an economic development bill in January 2021, under  Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A. 

This law is a critical step to ensure that sustainable, multifamily residential development is spread across transit-accessible locations throughout the Greater Boston region and not just concentrated in urban core communities. This is necessary to help stem a regional and state housing crisis driven in large part by a severe under-building of homes over the past 3 decades. 

“We are so grateful to the Barr Foundation for their support as we educate and organize to ensure we get meaningful zoning reform in every MBTA community. The MBTA Communities law opens the door for accessible choices. This a much needed step towards building the homes we need across Massachusetts.”

AHMA Board President Molly Goodman

As of 2014, one third of Massachusetts could not build multifamily housing because of zoning regulations- resulting in a socioeconomic divide across the state. Through the MBTA Communities law and funding from the Barr Foundation, AHMA is uniquely positioned to implement programming for more equitable housing in Massachusetts. Successful implementation from AHMA will have a long-lasting impact on racist legacy programs like red-lining, which are perpetuated through modern day exclusionary zoning.

“AHMA’s MBTA Communities organizing and education program will propel Massachusetts forward by working towards implementing multi-family zoning in neighborhoods across our region. By expanding our staff and unique capacity, we will focus on what is most important; deep grassroots organizing and community engagement. We will not only lead statewide advocacy and collaboration, but lay the important groundwork of building the infrastructure necessary for housing production and getting us closer to inclusive, sustainable communities.”

AHMA Executive Director Jesse Kanson-Benanav

Funding from the Barr Foundation for the  launch of the MBTA Communities organizing and education program will allow AHMA to: 

  • Provide direct support to grassroots leaders in targeted communities by hiring two additional full-time organizers that will develop outreach and educational campaigns in support of the MBTA Communities law.  With support from the new full-time organizers we will inform and enlighten stakeholders and residents about the racial, economic, and sustainable benefits of adopting zoning for multi-family housing around transit.
  • Collaborate with existing and/or launch start-up pro-housing grassroots organizations looking to be in compliance with the MBTA Communities law by providing stipends to volunteer organizers along with educational campaign materials and digital organizing tools.
  • Amplify effective pro-housing messaging in support of the MBTA Communities Law, across selected communities, by conducting opinion polling research with residents and city/town officials in order to design and deliver compelling strategic marketing campaigns building public support. 

For more information about MBTA Communities organizing and education program, AHMA’s Executive Director Jesse Kanson-Benavav is available for interviews and phone calls. Please contact him at 617-286-6602 OR [email protected]

AHMA Announces Leadership Transitions & New Board Members

On behalf of Executive Director, Jesse Kanson-Benanav, AHMA is pleased to announce the following leadership transitions on our Board of Directors:

-Upon completing her term as board president, Beyazmin Jimenez is now President Emerita.
-Molly Goodman has stepped into the role of Board President.
-Elijah Romulus, Senior Comprehensive Planner at Old Colony Planning Council, has joined as a new Board Member.
-Current Board Member, Andrea Aldana, has stepped into the role of Board Clerk.

Board President, Molly Goodman, extends her utmost gratitude to departing Board Member and President Emerita, Beyazmin Jimenez, for the monumental contributions she has made to the formation of AHMA. She writes…“This time four years ago we were a bunch of volunteers meeting at CIC every other week to hammer out the final YIMBYtown 2018 logistics. Two years ago we were sitting at Jesse’s dining room table with our attorney hammering out the logistics for our articles of incorporation for AHMA. Now we are a full-fledged organization primed to make change in Massachusetts and we wouldn’t be here without Beya’s leadership ….”.

On stepping into the Board President role, Molly says that helping to found Abundant Housing MA has been one of her proudest accomplishments to date. She writes “I’m thrilled to be named the Board President. Massachusetts has the best first-time homebuyer and first-generation homebuyer programs in the country, but what we don’t have is enough housing stock to provide those essential wealth building opportunities to all our residents and newcomers. I truly believe that Massachusetts is for everyone, and we have the tools that we need to lift everyone up.”

Board president, Molly Goodman, also welcomes Elijah Romulus, currently Senior Comprehensive Planner at Old Colony Planning Council, to the AHMA Board of Directors. As a leader in urban planning and environmental policy, Elijah understands the intersectional solutions needed, from production/zoning reform to sustainable development practices, needed to address the housing crisis.

On his passion for housing advocacy and move to join AHMA’s board he writes “Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being. This is why housing is such a critical issue. We should do our best to ensure there is affordable and accessible housing for those in need.” The AHMA board is excited to work with Elijah!

🚨New & Urgent Action Alert: Tell your Senator to support more homes by legalizing ADU’s (Amendment #160 to Senate Econ. Dev. bill)

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 Crighton has 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.

AHMA is asking you to immediately reach out to your Senator and ask them to co-sponsor and vote in favor of amendment #160 to legalize accessory dwelling units.

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.

🚨Urgent Action Alert Tell your State Rep. to support more Homes by legalizing ADU’s (Amendment #439) in the Econ. Dev. Bond Bill!

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.

AHMA Members Event: How to Advocate for Multifamily Zoning in Your MBTA Community

Join us for an AHMA members only strategizing and capacity-building event.

Wednesday, March 9
6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
via Zoom

Link provided upon registration

Not an AHMA member? You can join any time!

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.

AHMA Statement on DHCD Draft Guidelines for Required Multifamily Zoning in MBTA Communities

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.

🚨Action Alert🚨 Ask Your Legislators to Co-Sponsor H.1448/S.871 & Support the Pro-Housing Agenda

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.

Click here to take action and write to your legislators today!

Abundant Housing MA Denounces Boston ZBA Denial Of Affordable And Sustainable Housing Proposed For 4198 Washington Street, Roslindale


The proposed design for an affordable and sustainable housing/commercial development at 4198 Washington Street, Roslindale.

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.

Welcoming Kassie Infante to the AHMA Team

The AHMA Board and Executive Director are pleased to announce the hire of Kassie Infante as AHMA’s new Statewide Organizer!

Kassie comes to us most recently from the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts where she managed the Black Mass Coalition of statewide leaders committed to putting actionable progress behind the Black Lives Matter statement. She grew up in the City of Lawrence, where she is a former elected-school committee member and veteran educational justice advocate.

Through her new role at AHMA, Kassie will become a familiar face for pro-housing advocates across Massachusetts. As Statewide Organizer at AHMA Kassie will help grow our movement by identifying and activating pro-housing changemakers and building grassroots, pro-housing organizations in all corners of the Commonwealth. We are beyond excited to have Kassie join our team and hope you join us in welcoming her.

EVENT: What MA Can Learn From CA Zoning Reform Victories

A Conversation With CA State Senator Scott Wiener

Please join AHMA on Tuesday, December 7th at 6:00 pm for a webinar with California State Senator Scott Wiener, a leading voice of the California pro-housing movement in the California legislature. Click here to RSVP.

Massachusetts and California are both growing states that have historically built fewer homes than their residents need, and as a result are epicenters of the housing affordability crisis in the United States. Senator Wiener joined with his colleagues in the legislature to pass a comprehensive set of zoning reform bills that could lead to the creation of many hundreds of thousands of new homes that California needs to combat its severe housing crisis. While Massachusetts made progress towards zoning reforms with the passage of Housing Choice earlier this year, further state action is critical to build the homes for which people in our Commonwealth are desperate.

Senator Wiener will speak with AHMA about the progress in California, and what we in Massachusetts can do to win similar, big statewide action to help stem our own housing crisis.