THE EVERETT ADVOCATE – Friday, June 7, 2019 Page 9 Study finds local zoning rules block multifamily housing B OSTON – Over the past 15 years, despite many changes in local zoning, it remains difficult if not impossible to build multifamily housing in cities and towns across Metro Boston, according to a detailed study on development released recently. Thanks to a combination of local policies and state rules, housing has become increasingly difficult to permit in all but a handful of communities across the region, despite an affordability crisis and supply shortage that threatens to hobble the region’s economy and worsen racial wealth gaps. A recently released report funded by seven organizations – including the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and real estate groups – “The State of Zoning for Multi-Family Housing in Greater Boston,” paints a dismal picture of the process for approving and building housing in 100 communities comprising Greater Boston, even as the region struggles with escalating rents and an inadequate supply of homes to house all the workers needed to fill jobs in a bustling Massachusetts economy. Report author Amy Dain points to a series of small, subjective local decisions and bylaw changes that collectively tip the balance away from production and create hurdles for even good-quality development to succeed. “In the early decades of zoning, all development was allowed ‘as-of-right,’ meaning that landowners had a right to build projects that meet the specifications in zoning. In the 1960s, municipalities began shifting their zoning systems to a more ad hoc and discretionary system of special permits,” said Dain. “In recent decades, the system has become even more political and discretionary, with the local legislative body, either town meeting or city council, having the final say over multi-family developments, project by project.” Between 2015 and 2017, only 14 percent of all multifamily units in the 100 cities and towns were able to use “by right” zoning, found Dain. Approximately 57 percent used special permits, 22 percent used Chapter 40B (which overrides local zoning if the city or town does not met the state threshold for affordable housing), and seven percent used use variances (also discretionary). Relatively little land in Metro Boston is zoned for new multifamily development, Dain found. While that might be not an issue if communities built up in height, “most municipalities highly restrict height and density of development too, such that buildout does not satisfy demand.” The study is the first in 15 years to review zoning and permitting in Metro Boston in a systematic manner. The last major analysis, which was done by Dain for the Pioneer Institute in 2006, highlighted the many municipal barriers to housing production. Her latest review shows limited progress in some communities, but not enough to keep up with increased housing demand. “The problem with the approval process for multi-family housing is that it is time-consuming, costly, unpredictable, and results in building far less housing than we need,” said Massachusetts Housing Partnership Executive Director Clark Ziegler. The study found a “major shift” in use of mixed-use zoning, particularly in city and town centers. Mixed-use zonEverett resident recognized for academic excellence at Tufts University M EDFORD – Brendan Amorin of Everett was named to the Dean’s List at Tufts University for the spring 2019 semester. Dean’s List honors at Tufts University require a semester grade point average of 3.4 or greater. Tufts University, which is located on campuses in Boston, Medford and Grafton., Mass., and Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. ing, which allows for housing and commercial uses in the same building or same parcel, has now been adopted in over 80 percent of the region’s municipalities. “Although many communities have adopted mixed-use zoning for both homes and offices in their downtowns, many of them continue to restrict the actual number of units that can be built through height limitations, restrictions on the number of bedrooms, and onerous parking requirements. When you combine these restrictions with the discretionary approval of individual projects, you have a recipe to produce much less housing than the people of Metro Boston need,” said MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen. “This shortage forces prices to skyrocket, along with the number of homeless people in our region,” Draisen added. While municipalities are adopting mixed-use in their centers, much more zoning density and housing production is going to areas away from those centers. “Municipalities have been cautious in allowing development in historic centers, typically permitting tens of dwelling units, but not hundreds,” according to Dain. “Too often the significant developments are in car-centric locations away from shopping, jobs and public transportation. Local politics often pushes major development to places where existing homeowners won’t protest,” said Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Executive Director André Leroux. “As a result, we’re getting more traffic and less housing. It’s time to level the playing field.” S&B ROOFING Over 15 Years Experience * Free Estimates * Great Prices * Great Service * Licensed & Insured Please call 857-247-8594 for your FREE ESTIMATE! Friday, June 7 at 8:30 PM Singer/Musician DAVE MACK Saturday, June 8 at 8:30 PM DJ LOGIK Dance to all the Hits of Yesterday and Today! 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