Governor’s Housing Choice Designation Awarded to 67 Communities

May 17, 2018

The Baker-Polito Administration announced two milestones for communities in Massachusetts under their Housing Choice Initiative, a comprehensive new effort to create 135,000 new housing units by 2025.

The initiative, announced in December 2017, includes a new set of incentives and rewards for municipalities committed to sustainable housing growth in their communities. Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced the designation of 67 communities as Housing Choice Communities, and, in partnership with MassHousing, awarded Planning for Housing Production technical assistance grants to 15 municipalities. Both announcements will support communities in their efforts to substantially increase housing production across the Commonwealth. 

“Our Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative aims to maximize collaboration between state agencies, support innovation and data-driven policies, and provide cities and towns across the Commonwealth with tools to drive housing production in their communities,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are pleased to celebrate the first municipalities participating in the program and look forward to working with the Legislature to pass the Housing Choice Initiative to create more housing opportunities across Massachusetts.”

“The communities recognized today are already working hard to help create more housing opportunities across Massachusetts,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We are proud to support our Housing Choice Communities in their efforts to build new housing and create vibrant, welcoming communities for our families, workforce and residents.”

The Housing Choice Initiative is a multi-pronged effort, which includes today’s Housing Choice Designation, new technical assistance through MassHousing, and proposes legislative changes, through An Act to Promote Housing Choices, to deliver smart, effective zoning at the local level.

Communities who received the Housing Choice Designation have produced a total of nearly 60,000 new housing units over the last five years. These 67 communities each have proven track records of pursuing substantial housing production, and are committed to continuing that trend. The Housing Choice Designation is designed to be simple, flexible and achievable for municipalities, and in the program’s first year, 67 communities will be able to take advantage of new financial resources, including exclusive access to new Housing Choice Capital Grants, and preferential treatment for many state grant and capital funding programs, including MassWorks, Complete Streets, MassDOT capital projects, and PARC and LAND grants.

“Our economy continues to create new jobs and attract top talent in life sciences, healthcare, academia, advanced manufacturing, and in our thriving innovation eco-system from across the country, and the world,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “We must accelerate housing production, for all of our residents, to keep pace with our growing economy, and keep Massachusetts an attractive place to live, work, and thrive.”

“We are thrilled to see so many communities eager to seek the Housing Choice Designation, and we applaud their work in pursuing smart, effective housing policies that lay the groundwork for long-term success,” said Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Janelle Chan. “Today’s announcements mark important milestones for the Housing Choice Initiative, and we are excited to move forward on this critical issue in partnership with cities and towns across the Commonwealth.”

In addition to announcing the first Housing Choice Communities, MassHousing announced Planning for Housing Production awards for 15 communities to help municipalities achieve their affordable housing goals and deliver new mixed-income housing in a manner that is consistent with local priorities. These awards are part of MassHousing’s commitment to the Housing Choice Initiative, by making available $2 million in new technical assistance funding.

Participating grantees have already engaged in local housing planning, but have identified obstacles that prevent the realization of their planning vision; MassHousing’s grants will provide grantees with the technical expertise to implement housing planning, and deliver new housing. By assisting municipalities in progressing toward, achieving and exceeding Chapter 40B’s ten percent affordable housing goal, MassHousing’s Planning for Housing Production Program will help reset the way cities and towns interact with Chapter 40B, and forge new partnerships between MassHousing and participating municipalities to meet the Commonwealth’s housing challenges.

The planning services MassHousing will offer communities will vary, depending on local needs, to spur housing development, but may include assistance in crafting new zoning, planning public infrastructure improvements, capacity-building in planning and community development, and public education and data transparency initiatives to increase community support.

“MassHousing is excited to support the Baker-Polito Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, by giving cities and towns the additional capacity needed to achieve housing growth,” said MassHousing Executive Director Chrystal Kornegay. “By engaging with cities and towns on site feasibility, public infrastructure design, data transparency and rezoning, MassHousing’s Planning for Housing Production program will remove barriers to the realization of local planning priorities. We congratulate these fifteen cities and towns for advancing such compelling projects, and look forward to continuing to drive new housing production across Massachusetts.”

“The Massachusetts Housing Partnership is excited to be providing staff support to the Baker-Polito Administration’s Housing Choice Initiative,” said Clark Ziegler, Massachusetts Housing Partnership executive director. “Not only does Housing Choice provide communities with tools and incentives to increase housing production, but it also sets a long-term vision in that it’s tied to a meaningful production goal, is built on consensus about what communities need to do, and proposes to eliminate the two-thirds vote hurdle that stymies local leadership on housing.”

“We applaud the Baker-Polito Administration for launching the Housing Choice Initiative,” said Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “This program demonstrates that cities and towns are doing great work producing more housing units locally, and we know that passage of the Governor’s Housing Choice legislation will boost this momentum and provide communities with the tools and flexibility to build even more housing.  The partnership approach in the Governor’s housing bill is exactly what Massachusetts needs to address our housing challenge while ensuring sustainable growth in our communities.”

“Littleton is proud to be among the 67 cities and towns recognized for their efforts to expand housing choices for those who live and work in our communities. Littleton has a strong housing market and its total housing stock has increased by over 10% since 2010. Littleton’s subsidized housing inventory of 12.9% surpasses the 10% goal for affordability under Chapter 40B,” said Littleton Town Administrator Keith Bergman. “The Town is committed to remaining above that goal by being proactive.  With the leadership of its Board of Selectmen and Planning Board, town meeting voters have approved a package of housing strategies contained in the Town’s updated Master Plan, including many best practices of the Housing Choice program.”

“We are excited to be named a Housing Choice city by the Baker-Polito Administration. From our new 40R district which will provide 75 new family housing units for homeless (12 units) and workforce (63 units at under 60% area median income) families, to our new transit oriented development mixed housing and commercial/retail buildings downtown near our Beverly Depot commuter rail station, to our senior affordable housing and our supported housing  units downtown which include homes for adults with autism and for formerly homeless individuals, everything we do in Beverly is made possible in significant part due to our active and productive partnerships throughout the Baker-Polito Administration,” said Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill. “Governor Baker and his team understand the needs of local communities, and they are making real progress in providing needed high quality housing for the people of Massachusetts.”

“I am encouraged by the strong response by so many cities and towns to the Housing Choice Initiative. When municipal officials work collaboratively with builders, real progress can be made towards addressing the needs of recent graduates searching for an apartment, young couples looking for their first home, and downsizing seniors seeking to stay near family and friends,” said Gary Campbell, chief executive officer at Gilbert Campbell Real Estate and president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts.

The Baker-Polito Administration is deeply committed to meeting this housing challenge, through key investments, new initiatives and program reforms. Last year, Governor Baker filed a housing bond bill seeking $1.287 billion in additional capital authorization to advance the administration’s commitment to affordable housing and we have increased funding for affordable housing by 19% and is on course to invest $1.1 billion over five years in affordable housing. The highly effective MassWorks Infrastructure Program continues to be a key catalyst for housing production, supporting the creation of more than 3,000 housing units. The Open for Business Initiative will drive the production of more than 2,200 units of housing on state land. MassHousing’s $100 million Workforce Housing Initiative has advanced the development of 2,309 housing units across a range of incomes, including 616 workforce housing units. And, through An Act Relative to Job Creation and Workforce Development, the administration reformed the Housing Development Incentive Program, which is on track to facilitate more than 900 new units in Gateway Cities.