Governor Baker announced the Housing Choice Initiative, $10 million in incentives to communities to promote  more housing in the region and proposed legislation to make it easier to change zoning to make it easier to build housing.

The proposed legislation, which would obviously require legislative action, would lower the threshold for some zoning changes from a 2/3 super-majority to a simple 1/2 majority. From the press release:

Zoning changes that promote best practices 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;
  • Granting increased density through a special permit process;
  • Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning; and
  • Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.

An Act to Promote Housing Choices does not mandate that cities and towns make any of these zoning changes. The legislation allows municipalities that want to rezone for responsible housing growth to do so more easily, and in a way that is consistent with peer states.

While it is not entirely clear, it does appear that, if the state makes these changes, no further action would be required at the municipal level. The next special permit filing for additional residential density after the effective date would only require 12 or 13* votes in Newton. 

What do you think?

* Does a tie in Newton mean passage or defeat?

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