Abundant Housing MA Welcomes New Regional Organizers

Boston, MA Abundant Housing Massachusetts, Inc. (AHMA), a not-for-profit
corporation standing for abundant housing for all in communities across Massachusetts,
announced Joyce Mandell and Julia Davidovitz as their new regional organizers guiding the
implementation of AHMA’s MBTA Communities organizing and education program.

The strategic hires come as AHMA was recently awarded $500,000 by the Barr Foundation to
support pro-housing advocates organizing to build more housing opportunities across eastern
and central Massachusetts in line with the “MBTA Communities” law passed in 2020.

The new law requires 175 Greater Boston communities proximate to the MBTA to designate at
least one zoning district in which multifamily housing is permitted “as of right” – reducing a key
barrier to solving the region’s housing crisis. By linking transit access to the development of
more affordable housing, the law helps fight climate change and empowers thousands of
residents the potential freedom to live without the cost burden of owning a car.

A recent poll found that, aside from the economy and jobs, Bay Staters identify steep housing
costs as the top issue the state must address.

As regional organizers, Julia and Joyce will provide education, technical assistance, and
leadership development for grassroots pro-housing advocates in Massachusetts cities and
towns included in the new law. Regions of focus may include but are not limited to the Metro
Boston urban core, Metrowest, North Shore, Central MA (Worcester area), and the South

“For the new law to be effective in creating more accessible housing for all, we need cities and
towns to move swiftly on implementation with the strong community support we believe exists,
but that is too often drowned out by a vocal minority,” said Jesse Kason-Benanav, AHMA
Executive Director. “Julia and Joyce’s years of experience in advocacy and campaigns will be
critical in creating a more affordable, climate-resilient region with housing choices for everyone.
We’re thrilled to have them on board.”

Julia recently managed Sam Montaño’s successful State Representative campaign in Boston.
Prior to that, she worked on a Covid-19 vaccine distribution campaign funded by the NYC
Department of Health and was a Field Organizer on the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential
campaign. She grew up in Belmont, MA, received a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University
in Waltham, MA, and currently lives in Boston.

Joyce brings over 30 years of experience in the field of community development and organizing
around local urban and neighborhood economic development and served as the economic
development director of Oak Hill Community Development Corporation in Worcester. Prior to
that, Joyce was an Urban Studies Adjunct Professor at Worcester State University and was the
writer of a blog called Jane Jacobs in the Woo. In 2008, Joyce received a Ph.D. in Sociology
from Boston College.

To learn more about Abundant Housing MA and the MBTA Communities organizing and
education program, visit www.abundanthousingma.org

About Abundant Housing Massachusetts, Inc.

Abundant Housing Massachusetts Inc. (AHMA) is a Massachusetts not-for-profit corporation
standing up for abundant housing for all in communities across Massachusetts. AHMA drives
policy at the state and local level by identifying pro-housing changemakers, building the power
of local organizers, and connecting a statewide network. www.abundanthousingma.org

AHMA Executive Director and Board Member are appointed to Governor-elect Healey’s Transition Committees

We are thrilled about the recent announcement of our Executive Director Jesse Kanson-Benanav being named a member of Governor-elect Maura Healey’s Affordable, Abundant Housing Transition Committee!

We know that Kanson-Benanav will propel the housing agenda forward with a frame of equity and inclusion for all resident of Massachusetts. With a committee filled with amazing housing advocated like Jesse, we are one step closer to making Massachusetts for Everyone!

Kanson-Benanav is a nationally known figure in the pro-housing movement, and brings robust experience and extensive knowledge of both housing and community organizing. 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.

Congratulations to our Board Member Jarred Johnson for being named a member of Governor-elect Maura Healey’s How We Get Around Transition Committee! We look forward to seeing Johnson represent AHMA while pushing the transit forward!

Jarred approaches transit advocacy from a background in housing and organizing. Jarred has served as a community engagement coordinator and real estate project manager for a Boston-based affordable housing developer. Before that, Jarred helped to start the “Love Your Block” mini-grant project and helped write the City of Boston’s first Volunteer Plan as a part of the Civic Engagement Office. Jarred has a wealth of grassroots organizing experience working on various presidential, state, and Cherokee tribal races.Jarred joined TransitMatters as a volunteer member in the summer of 2015 and has served on the board since the fall of that year.

Recap of 9/28 MBTA Communities Event: Advocacy Tools & Resources!

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…

Submitting this form helps us better understand how we can support you and your fellow members. If you’ve already taken action, we’d still love to hear from you!

Other Resources Shared During our Event:

Advocacy Tools from prior AHMA events:

  • 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. 

AHMA Welcomes Interns to help drive Communications, Policy & Advocacy Work

On behalf of Executive Director, Jesse Kanson-Benanav, AHMA is pleased to announce the hiring of two interns as we seek to maximize our impact in the pro-housing advocacy space! We are honored to announce that Cheryl Daniel and Mike Kriesberg have joined team AHMA as a Communications/Marketing intern and Policy/Research intern, respectively.

As a current graduate student in the Media Advocacy program at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism and Law, and communications intern for State Senator Lydia Edward’s, Cheryl Daniel brings to AHMA extensive expertise in the areas of storytelling, political advocacy and community engagement. Prior to joining the team, Cheryl has supported social change research at Northeastern’s college of arts, media and design and completed journalism internships for several newsrooms and universities. As a student at Northeastern, she notably and recently collaborated with The Emancipator to bring awareness about voting rights to the public by producing a series of TikTok videos.

“Joining the AHMA team is like reuniting with family. I am excited to help advance the pro-housing agenda. Housing is more than a physical infrastructure- it is a place of meaning that can shape one’s everyday life. We must continue to advocate for affordable and accessible housing.”

Cheryl Daniel

As the Communications/Marketing Intern, Cheryl will support AHMA in increasing our overall base of support and engagement, through effective communication strategies and educational tools, amongst members in working towards our vision of housing abundance.

Having grown up in MA, Mike Kriesberg understands the need for advocacy towards public policy matters in housing. He joins team AHMA as the policy, research and advocacy intern. Having recently completed an Americorps VISTA service year with the Neighborhood Impact Team at Enterprise Community Partners, Mike brings extensive experience in the affordable housing, community development and legislative affairs spaces. Prior to joining the team, Mike also interned with Metro Housing Boston, supporting section 8 program recipients while completing important research. In addition to his housing policy and community development experience, Mike also interned for the state of New York’s Assembly Chair of Housing, helping to manage constituent services, tracking legislation and representing the Chairman in public affairs. This fall he will begin a Masters in Public Administration program, with a specialization in public policy, at New York university’s Wagner School of Public Service. As the policy, research and advocacy intern, Mike will support AHMA’s ongoing development of our policy and advocacy priorities.

In partnership with our full team, his role will focus on conducting research to both inform legislative priorities and translate research findings into model legislation and the development of educational tools meant to facilitate members’ organizing efforts.

“Joining AHMA is an incredibly exciting opportunity for me because I will have the opportunity to work with individuals and organizations across the Commonwealth towards the shared goal of creating more housing. The need for housing with easy access to transit and jobs is critical and AHMA, along with its members, treats the issue with the urgency it deserves.”

Mike Kriesberg

AHMA is honored that both Cheryl and Mike have chosen to share their talents with us and look forward to accomplishing much together! We know they make us stronger and will only get us closer to our vision of housing abundance in MA.

AHMA Comments to DHCD Draft Guidelines for Required Multifamily Zoning in MBTA Communities

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.

🚨 Action Alert 🚨 Send a letter or testify in support eliminating costly parking mandates for affordable housing in Boston

Calling All Boston Residents!

On December 15th the City of Boston Zoning Commission is hosting a hearing that would amend the Boston Zoning Code by removing the citywide, off-street parking requirements, for proposed residential development where at least 60% of the units are income-restricted.

This amendment has already been approved by the Boston City Council and the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). Help us get this important amendment to the finish line by sending a letter and/or signing up to testify!

This zoning amendment would eliminate the use of parking minimums as a bad-faith tactic for stalling affordable housing, and more, by…

  • by ending a costly mandate to many affordable housing developers.
  • not prohibiting parking in areas of need
  • taking a small but important step towards a carbon-neutral Boston

Parking minimum reform is an important step towards expediting and supporting the process of building more affordable housing and every unit lost or gained impacts members of our community. The Zoning and Planning Hearing is this Wednesday, December 15th, at 9am.

Action Alerts on the 100% Affordable Housing Overlay

Massachusetts has a severe housing shortage. We aren’t building enough homes to keep pace with demand, especially near jobs and transit. What’s more, 50 years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, much of what we have is still largely segregated by income and race. building enough homes to keep pace with demand, especially near jobs and transit.

Abundant Housing MA — Statement on Local Option Housing Bills

Originally published Jan. 17, 2020 on Medium.

Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) is a new, statewide pro-housing organization launching in 2020. Our complete organizational mission is included below the following statement.

The following statement was prepared by (AHMA) founding steering committee member Jarred Johnson, and cosigned by members Beyazmin Jiminez, Molly Goodman, Burhan Azeem, Jacob Oppenheim, and Jesse Kanson-Benanav.

I’m Jarred Johnson with Abundant Housing Massachusetts, a new group organizing Pro-Housing residents across Greater Boston and the state who are dedicated to zoning reform and making sure cities, towns, and neighborhoods across Mass are doing their part to solve the housing crisis. One of the chief causes of this housing crisis is the restrictive zoning across the state that concentrates the majority of development in only a handful of places. These exclusionary policies exemplify the unwillingness of some cities and towns to build the multi-family and affordable housing the state needs. We support any legislation that makes it easier for municipal governments to upzone single-family neighborhoods, especially around transit. We also support legislation that would force those municipalities that artificially suppress their housing supply through exclusionary single-family zoning to build the transit-oriented developments that the state so desperately needs.

We understand though, that zoning changes do not happen in a vacuum and that the structural changes around zoning will take some time for the benefits to be felt by low-income residents. That is why bills like H3924 & H1316, as well as the set of bills related to both the real estate transfer fee, right to purchase and right of first refusal, are crucial. As we build the housing we need around the region, we need to have the tools necessary to stop unfair rent hikes, building clearouts and allow tenants and non-profit to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing. We need to have the tools to limit rent increases, generate revenue for affordable housing, and give tenants more rights. All the while, we must build towards a future where renters have the best protection of all — numerous affordable choices of where to live, leaving no one at the mercy of their landlord.

I’d also like to add “Right to counsel” as one of the best ways to help protect current tenants from unfair evictions and illegal practices.

As valuable as the local option bills are, we hope the legislature can enact statewide or regionwide tenant protections and rent regulation to give renters uniformity and predictability as they move around the region. We want to and to ensure that all municipalities are doing their part to supply housing and protect tenants.

I hope that the legislature is able to embrace bold actions like the state of Oregon which abolished single-family zoning, allowing fourplexes in every town and city AND capped rent increases. Or like California, which capped rent increases AND and is close to requiring transit-connected and job-rich cities across the state to build much more multi-family housing, while providing protection for low-income neighborhoods.