Massachusetts, particularly but not exclusively the high-priced Boston area, has long been a leader in developing affordable housing nestled within market-rate housing developments.
One reason for this leadership is a 40-year-old state law – which includes an “inclusionary zoning ordinance” -- that provides developers with incentives (the ability to build more market-rate housing than zoning might otherwise permit) in return for placing “affordable housing” within the same neighborhood. The statute is now under attack from statewide NIMBY’s --the “Not in my Backyard” contingent. The law, however, is a model that has been emulated in communities throughout the nation, particularly in areas where housing is expensive (that way the developers actually make a modest profit on the affordable units, providing them an incentive to support a program this generally conservative constituency might not necessarily endorse).
The law also provides incentives for non-profits to develop affordable housing. Massachusetts “affordable housing trust fund,” like its inclusionary zoning ordinance, is a model for the rest of the nation.
These provisions, and others like them, are vital to providing a balanced housing supply to everyone in the community – from the wealthy whose property taxes fuel economic growth to the school teachers, nurses, police officers and fire fighters every neighborhood needs to thrive.
So cheers to the state’s Catholic bishops who have come out strongly against a ballot provision that would repeal the state law. These programs work for the common good of the community – something we hear far too little about these days.