Review And Critique Of Massachusetts Law 40 B

1206 words - 5 pages

In 1969, Massachusetts fashioned the law 40B, famously referred to as the “Anti-Snob Zoning Act”, which allows developers to bypass land use restrictions in towns where less than ten percent of the housing meets the state definition of affordable. There are multiple positions and solutions to friction in Massachusetts largely inspired by controversy surrounding the State's affordable housing law, Massachusetts General Laws chapter 40B between housing advocates and open space advocates. This thesis reviews and critiques the current law, and diagnoses various legislative proposals for the progressive feud.
One would generally assume advocates of affordable housing and open space preservation are political and ideological allies as affordable, decent housing has been a mainstay of the progressive view since the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson, and open space preservation came to the forefront as a part of the environmental movement of the same period in our nation's history. In Massachusetts however, the two sides are bitterly opposed due to a legislatively enacted stalemate which is entirely avoidable.
In short, the statute allows municipalities to "bait" developers, by ordinance or bylaw, to create affordable housing or preserve open space. The ordinance or bylaw, however, must specify the terms of the deal. To be eligible for a special permit, the developer must supply the specified minimum amount of required open space, or the specified percentage of affordable dwelling units. If the developer meets these terms, and the project is otherwise buildable, then the developer may be rewarded with a special permit authorizing more dwelling units and, perhaps, fewer infrastructure costs. By a great majority, far more municipalities select the open space as a tradeoff rather than affordable housing. While this issue is clearly defined in Massachusetts, it is visible nationwide.
In metropolitan Cleveland like almost every large North Eastern city, the consumption of land has increased by thirty-three percent in the same period, while the City's population has declined by eleven percent. In Massachusetts, the median price of a home is roughly twice the national median, and the percentage of income devoted to mortgage payments in the greater area of Boston is 44.9%, the second highest in the country after San Francisco at 46.7%. State spending on housing programs, as a percentage of the total state budget, was 2.9% in 1989, but only 0.7% in 2002. State spending for open space acquisition or preservation has also decreased, but not as much as the rate of decline for spending on housing. Inversely, Boston Housing Report Card 2002 estimates that 15,660 units are needed annually to ease the affordable housing crisis. While it is evident affordable housing is a serious, present concern, open space preservation is pressing in its own spot light. The Sierra Club estimates the total land lost to sprawl is about 100 million acres, of which 25 million...

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