The efforts of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts to create a new Chapter 40Y of the General Laws – the Starter Home Zoning District Act – came to fruition last month when Gov. Baker signed an economic development bill into law that the Legislature finally approved after months of negotiation.
Chapter 268 of the Acts of 2022 includes amendments to General Law Chapter 40R, the Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production Act, to uncouple starter homes from that law and place them in a new chapter of the General Laws in the hope that doing so it will increase the likelihood of success of the Starter Home Program long championed by the HBRAMA.
Chapter 40R, the Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production Act, was amended in 2016 to extend the law’s financial incentives to cities and towns if they adopt an overlay zoning district that permits the development of smaller homes (not exceeding 1850 sq. ft. of heated living area) on smaller lots (at a density of no less than 4 units to an acre).
The problem with that law, however, was that those homes had to be located in a so-called “smart growth” location. That was largely the reason that no “starter home districts” were created and no ‘starter homes” ever built. The enactment of Chapter 40Y will resolve many of the impediments to developing starter homes. No longer will a starter home zoning overlay district have to be located in a “smart growth location” approved by the state. Rather, an eligible starter home zoning overlay district will be any location that a community determines is appropriate.
Further, the prior requirement that 20% of the units in a starter home development be affordable to individuals and families whose incomes do not exceed 80% of Area Median Income, has been reduced to 10% of the units at 110% of AMI, thereby making the economics of such a project more workable. And by creating an entirely new statute, the existing regulations governing stater homes can be rewritten to make them less burdensome for municipalities and less costly for developers. The HBRAMA looks forward to working with the new Healey-Driscoll Administration on the development of those regulations.
The text of Chapter 40Y can be found in Section 89 of Chapter 268 of the Acts of 2022.