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MA Senate Passes Affordable Homes Act

By July 8, 2024No Comments

Quickly following last month’s action by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the State Senate unanimously approved its version of the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s housing bond bill, also known as the Affordable Homes Act. The Senate bill, S. 2850, not only provides historic levels of funding for various state housing programs to produce and preserve housing, in also includes several major policy changes that were priorities of the HBRAMA.

These policy changes include:

  • An amendment to the Zoning Act (G.L. c. 40A, § 6) that will create single-family house-lots throughout the commonwealth that can be developed as a matter of right in all single-family zoning districts;
  • An amendment to the Zoning Act (G.L. c. 40A, § 3) to permit the construction of accessory dwelling units as a matter of right in all single-family zoning districts;
  • An amendment to the Smart Grown Zoning and Housing Production Law (G.L. c. 40R, § 9) to double the density bonus payments to cities and towns that adopt a Smart Growth or Starter Home Zoning District; and
  • An amendment to the School Cost Reimbursement Law (G.L. c. 40S, § ) to ensure that cities and towns that adopt a Starter Home Zoning District quality for reimbursement for the additional cost of educating students living in those districts.

Not included in the Senate bill was a proposal to allow cities and towns to impose a local tax on real estate transfers to fund affordable housing projects that was opposed by the HBRAMA. It does, however, lower the threshold for the adoption of local inclusionary zoning ordinances and bylaws to a mere majority vote, but only where the ordinance or bylaw does not require more than 13 percent of the units to be affordable and includes a density bonus.

During the course of debate on the bill, senators rejected amendments that would have weakened the MBTA communities zoning law (G.L. c. 40A, § 3A), re-established local option rent control, increased the deed excise tax, and granted cities and towns the ability to mandate the installation of fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed one- and two-family homes.

The House and Senate have established a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the housing bond bill (H. 4726 and S. 2850). The members of the committee are: Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Rep. James Arciero (D-Westford), Rep. David DeCoste (R-Norwell), Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), Sen. Lydia Edwards (D-Boston) and Sen. Peter Durant (R-Spencer). For the legislation to become law this year, a compromise bill must be agreed to and enacted by branches by midnight July 31.

A detailed summary of S. 2850 can be found here.