- Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
- Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Highlights Housing Choice Bill in Provincetown
Ryan Boehm, Deputy Director of Communication
PROVINCETOWN — Today, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy, and Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Janelle Chan joined Senator Julian Cyr, Provincetown Acting Town Manager David Gardner, Truro Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer and other local leaders to highlight An Act to Promote Housing Choices. This legislation was filed by Governor Baker in February and 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.
“While the Commonwealth’s economy continues to fire on all cylinders, the high cost of housing across Massachusetts has created a shortage across the state,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We must pass An Act to Promote Housing Choices to empower communities to deliver the projects called for by a majority of residents.”
“With the support of the Seaport Economic Council and other state initiatives, coastal communities such as Provincetown and Truro have built thriving blue economies and bustling downtowns where employers and families want to lay roots, but struggle to find affordable housing options,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Governor Baker and I will continue to leverage every tool at our disposal to promote the production of housing in every region of the Commonwealth, so families, businesses and communities of all sizes can continue to grow.”
Today’s event at Provincetown Public Library celebrated Provincetown and Truro’s efforts to produce more housing for residents in response to the ongoing shortage and unique challenges facing Cape Cod. Recognizing the critical importance of providing viable housing options to residents, Provincetown developed a ‘Housing Playbook’ that resulted in the town investing more than $10 million to purchase and convert the Harbor Hill timeshare development into workforce housing, and an additional $4 million on other community housing projects. Similarly, Truro adopted an Affordable Housing Plan in 2013 that led to extensive planning and investment in the production and renovation of much-needed units.
In recognition of their efforts to promote housing production and adopt best practices, both Provincetown and Truro earned Housing Choice Community designations in 2018, making them eligible for capital grants to further boost housing and economic growth. In the inaugural round of Housing Choice capital grants, Provincetown received a $250,000 award to create two ADA accessible units at the Harbor Hill development, which will provide quality, affordable year-round rental housing to middle-income households.
“Municipal leaders from Williamstown to Provincetown continue to advocate for An Act to Promote Housing Choices because they recognize that far too often, outdated zoning provisions stand in the way of producing the amount of housing residents need to join and remain in their communities,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy. “This Administration will continue to build partnerships and prioritize the growth of our housing stock to ensure that Massachusetts remains the best place to do business and raise a family.”
“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 Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Janelle Chan. “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 that contribute to our strong, inclusive Commonwealth.”
The Baker-Polito Administration has been hosting spotlight events across the Commonwealth to celebrate communities that are taking proactive steps to encourage housing production, and to highlight the administration’s Housing Choice legislation. Today’s event is the twelfth event, following events in Easthampton, Barnstable, Lawrence, Salem, Williamstown, Grafton, Haverhill, Worcester, Everett, Lowell, and Quincy.
The Housing Choice 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. While this legislation will lower the voting threshold to change zoning for all communities in the Commonwealth, it does not require cities and towns to make any of these changes. With the proposed simple majority threshold, municipalities that pursue rezoning efforts including those enabling transit-oriented or downtown-oriented new housing, would gain approval if they achieve more than 50 percent of the vote, as opposed to the current super majority of more than 66 percent. 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 percent affordable units in locations near transit or, in centers of commercial activity within a municipality.
“Provincetown has maintained housing as a top priority policy goal for decades,” said Provincetown Acting Town Manager David Gardner. “What makes us blessed in terms of our geography, location and natural environment, forms the unique set of pressures that have led to a housing crisis that threatens the vitality of our fragile year-round community. The Housing Choice Bill allows communities who seek the tools necessary to adopt housing priorities to address the regions year-round and affordable housing challenges. Provincetown as a housing choice community has adopted many of the those tools, including a very unique inclusionary zoning bylaw, liberal Accessary Dwelling Unit and employee housing regulations, greater zoning density and sewer infrastructure to serve that density with our small lot sizes.”
“Governor Baker’s Housing Choice bill opens a wide variety of options for Provincetown, and it retains Provincetown’s control over housing decisions,” said Provincetown Select Board Chair David Abramson. “It does not force any changes upon the community that Provincetown may not be ready to make. It merely gives Provincetown the ability to conform our zoning by-laws to more accurately reflect our housing goals."
“As we work to address Truro’s housing needs, it is clear that we need to create options for more diverse housing choices that will provide alternatives for year round housing,” said Truro Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer. “The Administration’s Housing Choice bill is a great opportunity for communities like Truro to adopt zoning changes that best fit the needs of the community to promote housing for families to live and work on Cape Cod.”
“I’m delighted to welcome Lieutenant Governor and Secretary Kennealy to Provincetown as we work to highlight the importance of housing and zoning reform legislation, I’m grateful they traveled out to Land’s End,” said State Senator Julian Cyr. “I hope the Legislature takes up legislation soon to incentivize housing production and make common sense zoning changes. We also need to make sure seasonal communities have the tools they need to tackle our unique housing crisis. That’s why I’ve filed legislation specific to attainable housing in seasonal communities (Senate Bill 789) that I am strongly advocating for on Beacon Hill.”
“Addressing affordable housing is a difficult and complex task. Governor Baker and Lt Governor Polito have embraced this challenge and have sent a very good bill to the legislature,” said Representative Sarah Peake. “I am hopeful that we will take up this bill before the end of the session.”
"The Outer Cape has a critical shortage of affordable housing,” said Steve Roderick, President of the Truro Chamber of Commerce and President of Roderick's Payroll Inc. “An Act to Promote Housing Choices will allow us working with town boards to create housing which will help to sustain our year round communities."
“Our community cannot thrive without a year-round workforce and our children cannot flourish under the stress of insecure or inadequate housing,” said Suzanne Scallion, Superintendent of Provincetown Public Schools. “Like other community departments, we have staff living in winter rentals or traveling great distances to work in our schools due to a lack of affordable year-round housing. We support and celebrate the bipartisan efforts to pass An Act to Promote Housing Choices, which will help communities like Provincetown meet the housing needs of families, staff, and future generations.”
Today’s show of support built on recent bipartisan endorsements from officials and organizations including former Secretaries of Economic Development from the Romney, Patrick, and Baker administrations. The bill was formally discussed at the May 14th hearing of the Joint Committee on Housing. 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.
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.