AHMA announces communities of focus for their MBTA Communities Organization and Education Program.

With the welcoming of two new regional organizers leading to exciting growth in our organizing capacity, AHMA is pleased to announce initial communities of focus for our statewide MBTA Organizing & Education work. Our initial targeted communities allow AHMA the opportunity to strengthen and grow pro-housing leadership and local organizations, implement ambitious grassroots organizing techniques in a wide variety of communities and gain early wins on compliance within rapid transit communities. 

AHMA will be working in the following Rapid Transit Communities to be in compliance by December 2023: Brookline, Cambridge, Malden, Medford, Milton, and Somerville. 

AHMA will also be working in the following Commuter Rail & Adjacent Communities to be in compliance by 2024 and 2025 respectively: Arlington, Belmont, Franklin, Gloucester, Lawrence, Norwood, Reading, Waltham, Watertown,  and Worcester.  

As the only statewide pro-housing grassroots focused network, AHMA is embarking on this statewide campaign in local towns and cities with the following goals: 

  • Build public understanding of the benefits of multi-family housing
  • Build public understanding of the history of exclusionary zoning
  • Support municipal compliance with the MBTA Communities law
  • Expand grassroots pro-housing organizing infrastructure

Grassroots campaigns will be co-created with local advocates and pro-housing organizations in these communities of focus and range from full campaigns to lighter educational initiatives.

Organizing tactics and primary activities may include canvassing, network-building mobilizations, educational forums and celebrations. Local advocates will receive direct training and support from the AHMA organizing team in the areas of communication and public relations messaging in media, persuasion strategy, and effective advocacy. As these local initiatives progress, targeted communities may shift and new communities  added in pursuit of these goals. Additionally, AHMA will provide ongoing asynchronous resources and events for all pro housing advocates across the state. 

Members of the AHMA network who live in our sixteen initial communities of focus, and who are interested in getting involved are encouraged to email [email protected] 

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.

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]

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 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.

🚨Action Alert: Call your State Rep/Senator in support of more affordable homes!

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 sheet about this important bill!

AHMA staff delivering your petition signatures on Beacon Hill