Inclusionary Zoning
Case Study

Town of Barnstable, MA

Barnstable is located on Cape Cod 53 miles east of Fall River and 69 miles southeast of Boston. The town is bordered by Cape Cod Bay on the north, Nantucket Sound on the south, Sandwich and Mashpee on the west, and Yarmouth on the east. The Town of Barnstable includes seven villages within its boundaries: Centerville, Osterville, Hyannis, Marstons Mills, Cotuit, West Barnstable, and Barnstable. Each village has a distinct character, ranging from residential fishing village to commercial business districts. Due to its large number of year-round housing units and the fragile local environment, Barnstable faces the distinct challenge of increasing the number of affordable units while encouraging more sustainable development of market rate housing.

Dacey v. Town of Barnstable was one of the first legal claims against inclusionary zoning in Massachusetts. The case challenged a specific provision in the Barnstable inclusionary housing ordinance that required developers to pay a fee, to be deposited into the town's affordable housing fund, when subdividing a land parcel of less than ten acres or developing under ten residential units. The Barnstable Superior Court determined that the nature of the ordinance was a tax, not a fee, and the town did not have the authority to collect taxes.

It is important to note that decision against the Barnstable inclusionary zoning code centered on whether the charge imposed upon developers was a fee or a tax. The more traditional inclusionary zoning components of the ordinance - which required that a percentage of units in new residential development remain affordable - were not legally challenged.

Barnstable first implemented an inclusionary zoning bylaw in 2001 as a part of an Affordable Housing Plan, which seeks to produce 1,000 units of affordable housing in ten years time. The following goals, incentives, and techniques are specified in the Barnstable Plan:

  • 10 percent of all housing units in the town must be affordable to residents at or below 80% of area median income (AMI)
  • Incentives for developments that are 100% affordable include (1) waived density requirements and (2) reduced minimum lot sizes.
  • A subdivision that creates 10 or more lots or a multiple unit development that creates 10 or more units is required to dedicate 10 percent of the units to affordable housing.
  • Alternatives to on-site construction of affordable housing include (1) fee-in-lieu of payments of money or land, or (2) construction or rehabilitation of housing off-site.
  • The control period for the affordable units is 40 years with the town having right of first refusal to purchase the dwelling unit should a qualified purchaser, beyond the initial purchaser, not be found.

Critical Elements to the Program's Success:

  • Vision - Inclusionary zoning policy was created as part of an overall affordable housing plan for the town.
  • Capacity -The Town created positions and dedicated staff to work toward increasing affordable housing stock. Key positions included a director of the Office of Community and Economic Development, Community Development Coordinator, Special Projects Coordinator, and a part-time Housing Development Coordinator.
  • Local Agency Support - The Town of Barnstable worked with the local Community Housing Development Office (CHODO), Housing Assistance Corporation, and the Office of Community and Economic Development in order to draft the Affordable Housing Plan.
  • Innovative Solutions - To encourage affordable housing development, preserve existing housing stock, and control growth, Barnstable introduced an Accessory Affordable Housing/Amnesty program that brings existing non-conforming dwelling units and new accessory units into compliance if used for affordable housing.