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]

Abundant Housing MA Announces Executive Director

March 29, 2021 

Molly Goodman,
AHMA Board Clerk
(617) 212-8584
[email protected]

Kanson-Benanav to Lead Statewide Pro-Housing Nonprofit

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) is pleased to announce that Jesse Kanson-Benanav has been named Executive Director. A nationally known figure in the pro-housing movement, Kanson-Benanav brings robust experience and extensive knowledge of both housing and community organizing as AHMA continues its work towards abundant housing for all.

Kanson-Benanav has over 15 years of experience in affordable housing, public policy, and community engagement. He is the founder of A Better Cambridge (ABC,) a community-based education and advocacy group committed to creating more affordable and sustainable housing. In 2016, he was recognized by the Boston Globe Magazine as a “game changer” for his work with ABC and was the recipient of the Metro Housing’s Champions of Housing Rising Star Award in 2019. He leaves his role as Senior Project Manager at B’nai B’rith Housing to take on this new challenge.

“I am humbled by the opportunity the AHMA board has given me to help build an equity-focused pro-housing movement in Massachusetts,” said Kanson-Benanav. “I look forward to connecting with grassroots housing activists already doing this work in communities across the Commonwealth to help strengthen their work, to seed the creation of new local pro-housing organizations in communities where they don’t already exist, and to boost the voice of our movement in state level policy discussions.”

Board of Directors Vice President, Beyazmin Jimenez said that with his experience with the nuts and bolts of affordable housing development, combined with his extensive experience in community organizing, Kanson-Benanav is the perfect choice to lead AHMA.

“As a fellow organizer for Boston’s 2018 YIMBYtown conference, Jesse and I saw the need for a statewide coalition to harness the power of existing housing groups while bringing new diverse voices into the fold to address the unique needs of all our Massachusetts communities.” said Jimenez. “With Jesse at the helm of AHMA, we’ve taken a huge step in bringing that vision to life and infused new energy to tackle the affordability and supply crisis affecting our housing needs.”

Kanson-Benanav grew up in Saint Paul, MN and currently resides in Jamaica Plain. He received an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College and has a Master’s Degree in City Planning from the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Prior to his work with B’nai B’rith Housing, he worked as a Senior Project Manager for Somerville Community Corporation, a Regional Project Associate for Community Builders, and a public housing management consultant for Edgemere Consulting. He is also a board member at Just-A-Start Corporation in Cambridge.

Abundant Housing Massachusetts is a non-profit organization founded in 2020 to advocate for the creation of abundant housing for all and to develop and support a network of grassroots, pro-housing groups and activists across Massachusetts. AHMA is committed to fostering a movement that includes diverse voices, geography, and people with different lived experiences to help shape an inclusive statewide pro-housing network.


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