- Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
- Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
- Housing Choice Initiative
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Highlights Housing Choice Bill in Barnstable
Colleen Arons , Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
BARNSTABLE — Today, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy joined Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells and other local leaders to highlight An Act to Promote Housing Choices, legislation filed by Governor Baker in February that calls for targeted zoning reform to advance new housing production in Massachusetts and support the administration’s goal to produce 135,000 new housing units by 2025.
Today’s event underscored the need for increased affordable housing on the Cape. While Cape Cod’s natural beauty sustains a thriving maritime and seasonal tourism economy, existing zoning laws present a barrier to development necessary to provide housing for millennial and seasonal workers, limiting regional growth potential. The proposed Housing Choice legislation would help address this situation, by reducing zoning reform to a simple majority vote.
Local organizations including the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, Cape Cod Healthcare, CapeBuilt Development, and Housing Assistance Corporation joined in endorsing the legislation at an event held at 255 Main Street.
“Our Administration has invested more than $1 billion into the affordable housing ecosystem and advanced thousands of market-rate units through tools like the Housing Development Incentive Program but there is more work to be done to ensure the availability and accessibility of housing across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Passing this Housing Choice legislation will immediately spur new and ambitious housing development statewide, and we look forward to working together with our partners in the legislature to move this bill forward.”
“I am pleased to be here in Barnstable to welcome today’s endorsements, and thank Town Manager Ells for his leadership on the issue of housing,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Adequate, affordable housing is critical to the wellbeing of our families, and necessary for the growth of our Commonwealth. Governor Baker and I will continue to advocate for our Housing Choice legislation so that Massachusetts can meet this need.”
The legislative proposal will enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing production by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. This legislation will not mandate cities and towns to make any of these zoning changes; but will allow municipalities that want to rezone for denser, transit or downtown oriented, and new housing development to do so more easily. Massachusetts is currently one of only a few states to require a supermajority to change local zoning.
Zoning changes that promote best practices for housing growth that would qualify for the simple majority threshold include:
- Building mixed-use, multi-family, and starter homes, and adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning in town centers and near transit.
- Allowing the development of accessory dwelling units, or “in-law” apartments.
- Approving Smart Growth or Starter Homes districts that put housing near existing activity centers.
- Granting increased density through a special permit process.
- Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning.
- Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.
This legislation also includes a provision, added by the Joint Committee on Housing last session, that would reduce the voting threshold for a special permit issued by a local permit granting authority to a simple majority vote, for certain multi-family or mixed-use projects with at least 10% affordable units in locations near transit or, in centers of commercial activity within a municipality.
“Massachusetts is home to the country’s best-educated workforce, but also its most expensive housing,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “Our Housing Choice legislation would empower the production necessary to reduce housing costs, delivering relief to families while helping retain talent and securing economic growth. We look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature to make sure it passes this session.”
The legislation is part of the administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, which provides incentives, technical assistance, and capital grant funding to encourage new housing production that meets the long-term needs of the Commonwealth’s growing, and aging, population.
“Our families, seniors, workforce, individuals with disabilities, and vulnerable populations have diverse housing needs, and today’s market is not meeting them. Housing that our residents can afford is a crucial resource and An Act to Promote Housing Choices will create the tools we need to promote new housing development for those across incomes,” said Acting Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Jennifer Maddox. “We are proud of the coalition we’ve built in support of this legislation and the investments we’ve made in affordable housing, community development, and public housing to benefit the many communities which contribute to our strong, inclusive Commonwealth.”
“The Baker-Polito administration’s Housing Choice Initiative has helped the Town of Barnstable meet the challenge of increasing our housing supply. Our shared commitment to providing new housing opportunities for year-round residents is essential to supporting our economy and families living on Cape Cod,” said Town Manager Mark Ells. “The Town welcomes Lieutenant Governor Polito to Main Street Hyannis in support of their efforts to increase housing production through an approach that supports unique and dynamic destinations like downtown Hyannis and preserves the fragile resources that make Cape Cod special.”
“Access to affordable, high-quality housing is essential for our employees who wish to stay, return or transfer to Cape Cod to continue or start their career,” said Mike Lauf, President & CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare. “Therefore, we applaud and support the Town of Barnstable in its efforts and accomplishments toward growing and developing the housing stock, and we applaud and support the Governor in his ambitious and bold plan to improve and increase housing in the Commonwealth.”
“Cape Cod has a housing crisis, which dovetails so tightly with our overall economy that it is debatable which one drives the other,” said Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. “There are many micro and macro forces creating a constrained housing market for residents in the workforce here, which is why we applaud the Baker administration for its leadership on this issue by filing Bill #H3507. We believe this legislation sets the table for further discussion on regional nuances including communities with significant seasonal population shifts like the Cape.”
“The Baker-Polito Administration’s Act to Promote Housing Choices provides tremendous housing development flexibility in addressing the need for streamlined affordable housing development options, particularly for the ever-growing Cape Cod senior population and for medium and lower income individuals who are currently priced-out of the housing market and leaving the Cape,” said Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) Administrator Tom Cahir. “I am actively engaged in highly productive conversations with the Town of Barnstable and MassDOT on a residentially-focused Transit Oriented Development (TOD) planning effort which would be potentially enhanced by this legislation.”
“Recent news stories on Cape Cod have sounded alarm bells about fewer young families being able to afford housing leading to declining school enrollment, and year-round businesses, not just seasonal employers, having to buy housing for employees,” said Alisa Galazzi, CEO of Housing Assistance Corporation. “These are very bad signs for the Cape Cod economy. The housing crisis is getting worse and the Governor’s Housing Choice bill will help us address it.”
“Town officials, municipal planners, Cape Cod employers, community banks, private developers, housing advocates and stakeholders throughout the Cape have rallied together in response to the dire need for workforce housing on Cape Cod,” said Rob Brennan, President of CapeBuilt Development. “Still, this coalition lacks certain vital tools necessary to thoughtfully advance housing affordability for Cape Codders. The Administration’s Housing Choice bill provides those missing tools.”
“I am very pleased to see Lieutenant Governor Polito and Secretary Kennealy visiting Barnstable and in particular, the village of Hyannis. The legislation proposed by the Baker Administration would fund housing opportunities that is within the financial grasp of many people in our community,” said Rep. Will Crocker of Barnstable. “We need to work together to expand these housing options in order to retain our younger residents on Cape Cod, while also considering the needs of our more senior residents. Centrally-located housing is critical to enhancing the economy in our downtown area.”
“Housing and water quality always top our list of concerns on Cape Cod. Hundreds of accessory dwellings sit unoccupied, for example, because of outdated restrictions,” said Rep. Randy Hunt of Barnstable. “The Housing Choice Bill addresses this and other obstacles to adding affordable housing options across the Commonwealth.”
The Baker-Polito Administration has shown a deep commitment to increasing the production of housing across income levels. Since 2015, the administration has invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing, resulting in the production and preservation of more than 17,000 housing units, including 15,000 affordable units. In 2018, Governor Baker signed the largest housing bond bill in Massachusetts history, committing more than $1.8 billion to the future of affordable housing production and preservation. The Baker-Polito Administration has also advanced the development of more than 11,000 mixed-income housing units through the successful MassWorks Infrastructure Program, reformed the Housing Development Incentive Program, and worked with communities to implement smart-growth development and planning efforts.