Since the 1970s the Planning Office for Urban Affairs has worked to help enact zoning tools that support the development of affordable housing and encourage each community to do its fair share to care for our neighbors in need. The two most prominent efforts in this regard relate to the Massachusetts Chapter 40B Comprehensive Permit Law and the Chapter 40R Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production Law.
Chapter 40B: The Planning Office for Urban Affairs began developing affordable and mixed-income housing under the Comprehensive Permit Law during the early seventies, acting on the belief that affordable housing should be available in every municipality and that it can both enhance the community, and support those who live and serve in the community. When it opened in 1975, the Planning Office's 98-unit North Ridge Homes in Beverly was the very first development built in the Commonwealth under the Chapter 40B law. Since that time POUA has developed affordable and mixed-income housing under the Chapter 40B Law in Scituate, Lexington, North Andover, Billerica, Watertown, Waltham, and Brookline, making it one of the leading non-profit developers of affordable housing built under Chapter 40B in the Commonwealth.
The November 2010 election brought about a decisive victory for the Affordable Housing Law, with 58% of voters across Massachusetts voting to keep the law on the books. This has led to the development of 58,000 homes for seniors, the disabled and working families in Massachusetts, and has made 80% of all new affordable housing possible in Massachusetts suburbs. The Planning Office was proud to work on this campaign, alongside the four Catholic bishops in Massachusetts, and hundreds of advocates from across the state, and continues to work with a coalition of housing advocates to implement lessons learned from the campaign.
Chapter 40R: The Planning Office for Urban Affairs has been a strong supporter of the Massachusetts Chapter 40R Law, which provides for smart growth and housing production in defined districts in a community. With the strong support and endorsement of the City of Haverhill, POUA's Hayes Building property was the first Chapter 40R development to be permitted in a Massachusetts city. The Hayes Building is the redevelopment of a former, vacant mill building located in the heart of downtown and at the center of Haverhill's Smart Growth District, and is key to the city's effort to revitalize the entire central business district area. This development not only provides badly needed affordable workforce housing for the area, but it also reinforces the importance of Chapter 40R as a tool for all of Massachusetts's communities.
The Planning Office for Urban Affairs focuses whenever possible on building "Friendly" 40B developments, working in partnership with local neighbors and municipalities to help them meet their housing and community development objectives. This approach is in keeping with POUA's long-held belief that affordable housing should be an integral part of all communities, strengthening both the neighborhoods in which it is located and the residents served in the newly built housing.
The Planning Office recognizes the importance of recent changes to make the administration of Chapter 40B easier, to give towns more flexibility in planning and to ensure careful oversight of this essential tool. The Planning Office is a frequent and outspoken proponent of Chapter 40B at the statehouse, where the law has been challenged in recent years. Read Lisa Alberghini's Testimony in support of 40B before the Joint Committee on Housing in September 2009. (Read Testimony)