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  • Apr 062016

    Yglesias: Honan bill possible cure for urban housing crisis by Rus Lodi

    APRIL 6, 2016 --- Matthew Yglesias, who writes about economics and housing for Vox.com, has picked up on last week's Commonwealth Magazine online article by MHP's Clark Ziegler and MHP board chair Chris Oddleifson.

    APRIL 6, 2016 --- Matthew Yglesias, who writes about economics and housing for Vox.com, has picked up on last week's Commonwealth Magazine online article by MHP's Clark Ziegler and MHP board chair Chris Oddleifson.

    Ziegler and Oddleifson, president and CEO of Rockland Trust, penned the piece as another installment in MHP's Unlock the Commonwealth initiative.

    Yglesias tweeted on Tuesday that the article's policy suggestions were a prescription for "how to Make Massachusetts Great Again".

    He came back today with an article that said the housing bill sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Honan "offers a glance at what a solution to the housing crisis gripping the U.S. is likely to look like."

    Yglesias

    Some of the ingredients of Honan's bill were recommended in MHP's 2014 report "Unlock the Commonwealth."

    This study found that Massachusetts was losing innovation workers to other regions that were producing more housing. The report offered several policy recommendations to help the state build more housing.

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  • Mar 312016

    Our argument for zoning reform by Rus Lodi

    MARCH 30, 2016 --- MHP Executive Director Clark Ziegler and MHP board chairman Chris Oddleifson, president and CEO of Rockland Trust, have co-authored an article in CommonWealth Magazine on why Massachusetts needs zoning reform.

    MARCH 30, 2016 --- MHP Executive Director Clark Ziegler and MHP board chairman Chris Oddleifson, president and CEO of Rockland Trust, have co-authored an article in CommonWealth Magazine on why Massachusetts needs zoning reform.

    The story documents how restrictive zoning rules have hamstrung housing production for decades, causing housing prices to rise and pushing young talent we need to drive our workforce elsewhere.

    The story says the state is trying to address this issue through a bill approved earlier this month by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing that would require every city and town to play for multifamily and designate areas where it would be allowed by right.

    MHP has been writing and commissioning research on housing production and economic growth for more than 10 years.  The CommonWealth article is a distillation of much of what MHP has published on this topic.

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  • Mar 152016

    Study: State revenues from new housing could cover local costs by Rus Lodi

    BOSTON, March 15, 2016 --- In our ongoing analysis about how we can allow more housing in response to demand, the Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth has advanced the idea that state tax revenues from new housing are large enough to support a fund that could compensate communities for the negative local fiscal impacts of new housing.

    BOSTON, March 15, 2016 --- In our ongoing analysis about how we can allow more housing in response to demand, a new study by the Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth has advanced the idea that state tax revenues from new housing are large enough to support a fund that could compensate communities for the negative local fiscal impacts of new housing.

    Commissioned by the Massachusetts Housing Partnership as part of  its Unlock the Commonwealth initiative, the new study was previewed on WBUR this morning in an interview between morning host Bob Oakes and Michael Goodman, a UMass Dartmouth professor and director of the Public Policy Center.

    The UMass Dartmouth analysis found that increased state revenue from a representative sample of new housing developments was more than three times the amount needed to compensate the additional municipal costs not covered by local tax collections.

    The release of the study is timely given that the state legislature is about to report out on proposed legislation related to housing production. One of the major concerns communities have when considering new housing is that local costs will not be covered by local tax collections.The new UMass Dartmouth study suggests that the state would realize more than enough revenue from new housing to cover the local costs of new housing.

    To download the study, click here. To read the news release, click here.

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  • Feb 172016

    Impact of boomer retirements on state's economy by Rus Lodi

    BOSTON, Feb. 17, 2016 --- The Boston Globe's Deidre Fernandes led today's paper with a story that echoes what the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has been saying for years - a big hurdle to the state's economic growth is "the long predicted wave of baby boomer retirements."

    BOSTON, Feb. 17, 2016 --- The Boston Globe's Deidre Fernandes led today's paper with a story that echoes what the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has been saying for years - a big hurdle to the state's economic growth is "the long predicted wave of baby boomer retirements."

    Fernandes' story is a one-two punch of economic forecasts and anecdotes from companies that are already scrambling to fill jobs vacated by retiring baby boomers.

    Some of the story's sobering predictions:

    • By 2018, employment growth in Mass. is expected to plunge by half not because there aren't jobs but because there won't be enough workers to fill them.
    • Mass. has the 14th oldest labor force in the nation, with 40 percent of its workers over 40.
    • More than half of manufacturing workers are 45 or older and some 30,000 will retire in the next six years.

    Fernandes then speaks to a wide range of industries that are already grappling with replacing retirees, from manufacturing to insurance to health care to the defense industry.

    The Metropolitan Area Planning Council's Tim Reardon has been warning about this in presentations to communities and housing groups for the past few years. Most recently, he told an audience at a  Commercial Real Estate Women of Boston luncheon that:

    • Baby Boomers comprise 49 percent of the state's work force.
    • One million workers born before 1970 will retire by 2030 (39 percent of state's work force).

    The threat to the economy is that boomers don't retire to a cloud or Iron Mountain. They stay put, meaning that the workers that are found to replace them will need to find housing. Reardon estimates that Metro Boston will need 435,000 new units by 2040 to keep up with housing demand and sustain the state's economic growth.

    MAPC's numbers have been the backbone of MHP's Unlock the Commonwealth initiative, which has proposed a series of recommendations so that the state can better respond to demand and build the housing it needs to sustain and grow its economy.

    Chief among the recommendations is that the state require that every municipality have zoning ordinances and bylaws that allow for multifamily housing. This suggestion is contained in An Act Relative to Housing Production (H.1111) proposed by Rep. Kevin Honan and state Sen. Jamie Eldridge.

    Fernandes' story echoes what MAPC has been saying and nails what is facing the Massachusetts economy going forward:

    Sustaining (a skilled and educated workforce) presents a critical public policy challenge as Massachusetts competes with other states to attract and retain younger workers, including addressing the already high — and rising — cost of housing.

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  • Feb 112016

    Townhouses could ease rents, help Americans build wealth by Rus Lodi

    BOSTON --- Don't you love it when somebody makes a complicated subject like housing seem so simple? Amanda Kolson Hurley did so with her recent article in Next City on why we should be building more housing known as the "missing middle."

    BOSTON --- Don't you love it when somebody makes a complicated subject like housing seem so simple? Amanda Kolson Hurley did so with her recent article in Next City on why we should be building more housing known as the "missing middle."

    She writes from personal experience. She lives in a townhouse outside of D.C. She doesn't have a yard or a dedicated privacy or yards of open space between her and her neighbors. Yet she loves it and knows if she put her home in the market, it would sell fast.

    Then she laments on what she sees as an unmet demand:

    Just a few years ago, a name emerged for the kind of community I live in. Neighborhoods like mine represent “the missing middle” in American housing, say architects and planners: not a big subdivision, not a high-rise apartment tower, but a middle option in terms of scale and density.

    We used to build lots of in-between housing in this country: rowhouses, duplexes, apartment courts. In other countries, the middle is still the default. Britain is the land of the semi-detached house; the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have dense, low-rise (and attractive) housing of various kinds. But the United States stopped building this way decades ago.

    She then goes on to talk about what more housing like this would mean and why more of it isn't being built. It's a good read. Here's the link:

    https://nextcity.org/features/view/cities-affordable-housing-design-solution-missing-middle

     

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  • Jan 052016

    State planning in Massachusetts? Back to the future. by Clark Ziegler

    BOSTON, Jan. 5, 2016 --- One element of the housing production bill filed by Housing Committee chairs Rep. Kevin Honan and Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry that has received very little attention so far is the restoration of an office of state planning.

    BOSTON, Jan. 5, 2016 --- One element of the housing production bill filed by Housing Committee chairs Rep. Kevin Honan and Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry that has received very little attention so far is the restoration of an office of state planning.

    BTTF3

    Most states in the U.S. have an office of state planning or something equivalent. Professional state planning took root during the Great Depression and by 1938 planning offices had been established in all but two states.  Massachusetts was ahead of the curve and had previously created a Division of Metropolitan Planning in 1923 to guide water, sewer and transportation planning and investment throughout the Boston region.  In 1935, the Legislature went further and established a State Planning Board that shaped growth, development and natural resource protection in the Commonwealth under various titles for nearly a half century until it was eliminated in 1979.   Here’s how the board explained its role in its first annual report in 1936:

    How shall the Commonwealth not only stand, preserving every useful element of its present position, but also forge onward to greater prosperity?…The active steps, the decisions making progress toward that goal, are for the Legislature to choose and determine.  But at every stage of such determination the Legislature needs a broad supply of facts, logically arranged and truly interpreted…(T)he State Planning Board was instituted and specifically instructed by the General Court to find all the available facts as to this State’s present position, outlook, and needs, and to report these facts in as clear as expressive a manner as possible, as an integral step in a master plan for the beneficial development of the State.

    The language may be quaint, but the need for state planning based on factual analysis still rings true 80 years later.

    In a world without computers, calculators, or mapping software, the State Planning Board got a tremendous amount done.  Technical reports in the 1930s and 1940s focused on land and natural resource protection, allocation of state and local costs for transportation and infrastructure, and migration between cities and towns, among many other topics that were then considered critical to the state’s development.

    As the Commonwealth contemplated its growth after World War II, including the need to plan and build housing for veterans to return to the labor force and start families, state planning in Massachusetts went into high gear.  The State Planning Board published a major report in 1946 on land suitable for residential development, including a detailed land inventory and analysis of available water and sewer infrastructure in every major metropolitan area in the Commonwealth (see example below).

    Land Suitable

    Public transportation was also a high postwar priority.  A special Legislative Commission on Rapid Transit produced a series of comprehensive reports in the mid to late 1940s that are still, in many ways, the blueprint for our modern public transportation system.  The planning map below shows the current Green Line being extended not just to Medford but all the way to Woburn along existing railroad rights of way.

    T

    As planning and development evolved in the 1950s the role of state planning evolved, too.  Suburban communities were becoming increasingly restrictive and “large lot zoning” became a major policy concern.  The state planning office tracked these development patterns and local zoning bylaws closely and joined MIT and the Urban Land Institute in 1958 to produce the first major national study on the impacts of large lot zoning on housing supply and fiscal stability.

    In 1955 the Legislature also authorized the creation of 13 regional planning agencies (RPAs) covering the entire Commonwealth.  RPAs are consortia of local governments that have banded together under the provisions of state law to address problems and opportunities that are regional in scope.  RPAs have done excellent work over the years – particularly with respect to growth projections, transportation planning, and voluntary regionalization of public services -- but their overall impact on growth and development is limited because under state law virtually no land use decisions are made at the regional level in Massachusetts.

    Massachusetts state planning waned in the 1960s and early 1970s (during a period when the RPAs were ramping up and the federal government had jumped into the fray to provide planning grants directly to local government) and then came back in full force in the mid-1970s.  As directed by the Massachusetts Growth Policy Development Act of 1975, the renamed Office of State Planning worked with individual cities and towns to develop individually tailored growth plans with an emphasis on the vitalization of city, town and neighborhood centers.  The final work product, the Massachusetts Growth Policy Report, was unusual at the time for pursuing a bottom-up vs. top-down approach.  It was an attempt to balance state, regional and local interests while actively engaging the participation of community leaders and elected local officials.  Less than two year later the office was eliminated by Governor Edward King based on his belief that state government had no role in planning for growth and needed to simply get out of the way of the private sector.

    So why do we need an office of state planning now, if we’ve managed to live without one for the last 37 years? Simply stated, because state officials do not have nearly enough data or analytical support to make informed decisions about the future growth of the Commonwealth.

    What we don’t know about our growth potential in Massachusetts could fill volumes.  We don’t have accurate data on new construction because city and town reporting on building permits is often missing or incomplete.  We don’t know how much new housing is being built in “smart” locations that are within walking distance of town centers or in proximity to jobs or public transportation.  We have no idea how much land in Massachusetts in zoned for multifamily housing development, even though multifamily units represent about two-thirds of our projected housing need.  We have no statewide or regional inventory of developable land served by existing water and sewer infrastructure or by existing highway or transit capacity.  We have no analysis that relates potential housing construction to existing school enrollment and school building capacity and thus have no way to ensure that the fiscal costs and benefits of new housing construction are equitably shared.

    Restoring a state planning office in some form is not necessarily about adding staff or increasing the size or role of state government.  There are already dozens, perhaps hundreds, of state employees whose jobs involve data analysis and policy development, yet these professionals are all siloed in separate agencies with their own separate priorities.  The state has taken small steps recently -- such as hiring a Director of Enterprise Data Management and funding a Big Data initiative -- but we remain far behind other states.  Ironically, it’s not the need for a “big data” vision that holds us back, but rather the lack of basic factual analysis like the state produced so effectively with meager resources in the 1940s.

    In the meantime, many of our competitors have figured this out.  Previous MHP research has shown that metro Boston is realizing a net loss of population to several metro areas in the U.S. that are growing their innovation economies at a faster rate – in several cases two and three times faster than ours.  What sets apart our strongest competitors?  In general they allow more housing construction than in Massachusetts, they offer more housing options at a lower cost, and they benefit from state-level growth planning.  Our biggest outmigration disparity is with Portland, Oregon, for example, which attracts three workers from metro Boston for every worker we get in return.  Portland’s thriving innovation economy is supported by a state Department of Land Planning and Conservation that actively coordinates statewide growth.  Metro Baltimore also has one of the fastest growing innovation economies in the U.S., buoyed by its strong universities, and that robust growth is supported by a Maryland Department of Planning that establishes state development policy and coordinates data analysis across multiple agencies.

    There is no “one size fits all” approach to state planning, and that will certainly be true in a unique state like Massachusetts.  Whatever approach we take, though, the need is compelling and the debate is long overdue.

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  • Dec 212015

    Other states permitting more multifamily housing by Callie Clark

    BOSTON, Dec. 21, 2015 -- Earlier this fall Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) testified before the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing that while it might seem like multifamily production is increasing rapidly in Boston, the state of Colorado has 1.4 million fewer residents and issued over 16,000 more multifamily permits from 2011 to 2014. Korenegay also noted that tech employment is growing more than twice as quickly in Colorado as in Massachusetts.

    BOSTON, Dec. 21, 2015 -- Earlier this fall Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) testified before the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing that while it might seem like multifamily production is increasing rapidly in Boston, the state of Colorado has 1.4 million fewer residents and issued over 16,000 more multifamily permits from 2011 to 2014.  Korenegay also noted that tech employment is growing more than twice as quickly in Colorado as in Massachusetts.

    Many of the states that we compete with for young, educated workers have more housing options and some of those housing options are much more affordable.  But what sets these states apart from Massachusetts is how much more multifamily housing these competitor regions permit compared to us.

    Between 2011 and 2014, Massachusetts permitted 22,642 multifamily units according to the U.S. Census Building Permits Survey.  In comparison, North Carolina permitted 57,522, Texas permitted 211,835, Colorado permitted 38,799, California permitted 142,712, Oregon permitted 21,573, and Washington state permitted 49,874.  Only Oregon permitted less multifamily units than Massachusetts but they also have 2.7 million fewer residents than us.  Compared to these other metro regions, Massachusetts permitted the fewest multifamily units per capita with only 3.4 units permitted for every 1,000 residents.

    MF permits copyWhile many factors contribute to housing affordability, the actual supply of housing and new construction is paramount.  A Dec. 10 Boston Globe article featured one couple that moved from Minneapolis to Boston for graduate school.  The couple was shocked by how little their money could buy in Boston for a one-bedroom apartment versus what they were able to affordable in a similar neighborhood in Minneapolis.  Many factors contribute to increased housing affordability in Minnesota compared to Massachusetts but supply of multifamily housing is a significant factor.  Despite having over 1.2 million less residents, Minnesota almost matched the amount of multifamily housing permitted from 2011 to 2014 especially in the five or more units category.

    In the competition between states for much sought-after tech industries and workers, tracking building permits may be a predicter of future performance.

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  • Sep 292015

    MHP presents at hearing on housing production bill by Rus Lodi

    BOSTON, Sept. 29, 2015 --- MHP Executive Director Clark Ziegler presented a summary on housing supply in Massachusetts to to the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing this morning, which convened to hear testimony on a proposed bill that will allow the Commonwealth to build the housing it needs to meet demand and grow its economy.

    BOSTON, Sept. 29, 2015 --- MHP Executive Director Clark Ziegler presented a summary on housing supply in Massachusetts to to the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing this morning, which convened to hear testimony on a proposed bill that will allow the Commonwealth to build the housing it needs to meet demand and grow its economy.

    To view MHP's summary on housing supply in Massachusetts, click here.

    An Act Relative to Housing Production (H.1111) proposed by Rep. Kevin G. Honan (D-Boston) proposes several zoning, administrative changes and financial incentives to help the Commonwealth meet demand for housing. Many of these were based on recommendations made by MHP in its Unlock the Commonwealth report released in November, 2014.

    Highlights of Honan's proposal include:

    • Require that all Massachusetts zoning ordinances and bylaws provide reasonable opportunity to build multifamily housing.
    • Require cluster development to be allowed as-of-right in all zoning districts that allow the construction of detached single-family homes.
    • Allow cities and towns to regionalize land use regulation and engage in inter-local development compacts at a local option.
    • Expand funding formulas to reimburse communities for demonstrated increased school costs resulting from multifamily and cluster developments.

    Ziegler was joined by Metropolitan Area Planning Council Assistant Data Director Tim Reardon, whose organization has done analysis on how much housing Massachusetts will need to build to house its workforce and baby boomers who will be leaving the work force in the next 25-30 years.

    Ziegler highlighted the current lack of housing production compared to almost any point in the state’s history, leading to both rental and homeownership prices to be among highest in the U.S.  He also presented findings from U.S. Census data that points to Massachusetts losing population to metro regions that offer better housing choices at a lower costs.

    Reardon discussed the impending wave of Baby Boomers retiring from the workforce through 2040.  He emphasized that attracting and retaining young workers, to fill the void left by Baby Boomers, is an economic imperative for the Commonwealth.  He also discussed the need for more urban and multifamily housing production to respond to the demand for these types of units. To see the analysis Reardon presented, click here.

    Ziegler and Reardon were followed by testimony from state leaders, housing advocates, and the private sector.

    Chrystal Kornegay, the state's Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development, acknowledged on behalf of the Baker Administration the state's need for more housing, especially in what she called the broad "middle band" between high-end luxury and subsidized band for low-income individuals and families.

    "If we get production right in this middle market band, we increase family stability by providing enough moderately priced housing to meet market demands; we aid efforts by the Commonwealth to attract and retain talented workers; and we meet seismic demographic shifts head on," she said.

    Kornegay also offered some perspective on the flurry of housing developments currently going up in and around Boston.

    "Let’s put all the cranes we see around Boston in some perspective. Colorado has 1.4 million fewer residents than Massachusetts does. But over the past four years alone, Colorado has issued 16,000 more multifamily building permits than Massachusetts has. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that tech employment is growing more than twice as quickly in Colorado than it is here in Massachusetts.

    "The skilled workers who form the backbone of our economy are highly mobile," she continued. "If Massachusetts can’t produce the type of housing these workers demand, at a price point they can afford, we shouldn’t be surprised when they look somewhere else."

    To read Kornegay's full testimony click here.

    Michael Hogan, President and CEO of A.D. Makepeace Company of Wareham, spoke on behalf of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, where he is currently serving as chairman. Hogan noted that the lack of housing is forcing young professionals to move farther from Boston.

    "What happens when young professionals living and working in Boston start thinking about family and schools," he said. "All of a sudden they find themselves living in Uxbridge or Kingston because that's where they can afford a home and all of a sudden they are commuting three to four hours a day to work."

    Susan Schlesinger, president of the Life Initiative, acknowledged the state's healthy economy but cited previous statements on Massachusetts historically low housing production and said, "When it comes to housing production in Massachusetts, we're losers."

    Brenda Clement, executive director of the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association, offered her support by noting that the lack of zoning for multifamily housing. "Local regulations impedes the development of housing except for large-lot housing," she said.

    For additional information about the hearing and H. 1111, visit CHAPA’s website at www.chapa.org or contact Director of Public Policy Rachel Heller at rheller@chapa.org or 617-742-0820 x103.

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  • Jul 102015

    How septic regs hamstring multifamily development by Rus Lodi

    JULY 10, 2015 --- We have just posted an eye-opening analysis by Joe Peznola of Hancock Associates on how the state's septic regulations hamstring the development of multifamily housing in Massachusetts.

    JULY 10, 2015 --- We have just posted an eye-opening analysis by Joe Peznola of Hancock Associates on how the state's sewage rules hamstring the development of affordable housing in Massachusetts.

    To read the analysis, click here.

    Now we'll admit that reading about sewers, gallons per day and sand filters isn't exactly beach reading, but it's worth taking the time - maybe on a rainy day - to check out Peznola's report. Here are some quick highlights:

    • Peznola writes about how regulations for systems under 10,000 per day are relatively straight forward.
    • Anything over 10,000 gallons per day triggers huge construction and maintenance expenses and oversight by MassDEP as opposed to local boards of health.
    • This reality creates a gap in the size of multifamily developments that require their own septic systems. Forty-four units is about as high as you can go to stay under 10,000 gallons per day.
    • For projects that need capacity for over 10,000 gallons per day, you need to build about 200 units to make it cost effective. That's why where septic systems are needed, you don't see a lot of projects in the 50 to 150-unit range.
    • State regs require capacity of 110 gallons per bedroom but this was established before the advent of efficient plumbing fixtures, low-flow toilets and washing  machines.
    • Peznola writes today's washing machines use as little as 17 gallons as opposed to 40 to 50 gallons when the regs were written.
    • Peznola cites research that found that average bedroom flow in 25 active private waserwater treatment plans to be 68 gallons per day per bedroom, well below the 110 gallons required.
    • 109 of 187 communities in Greater Boston  have septic regulations that are more stringent than the state's Title 5 regulations, which require 110 gallons per bedroom. Many communities require more than the state.

    Peznola provides charts that show the cost of sewer construction and maintenance for projects that need under 10,000 gallons per day and those that need higher capicity. The cost differences are significant.

    Peznola also offers a series of recomendations to address the significant cost differences of projects below and above the 10,000 gallon per day threshold. The recommendations are designed to adjust regulations to modern water usage standards, make multifamily more possible along a full range of project sizes while maintaining the Commonwealth's health and environment.

    It's worth a read.

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  • Jun 172015

    Gittelman sees hope in 2 housing bills before legislature by Rus Lodi

    JUNE 17, 2015 --- While many in the housing world tend to focus on how hard it is to get anything built, Susan Gittelman continues to remain positive about the state's potential to build the housing it needs to keep Massachusetts economically competitive.

    JUNE 17, 2015 --- While many in the housing world tend to focus on how hard it is to get anything built, Susan Gittelman continues to remain positive about the state's potential to build the housing it needs to keep Massachusetts economically competitive.

    In Feb. 2015, Gittelman, the executive director of B'nai B'rith wrote an op-ed piece in Banker & Tradesman about state Rep. Kevin Honan's bill that would require all local zoning ordinances to allow multifamily developments and to adjust aid formulas so that communities that built housing could deal with the impacts of growth.

    In June, Gittelman wrote another B&T op-ed piece that compared Honan's bill to a second bill, this one proposed by Sen. Dan Wolf and Rep. Stephen Kulik that would reform zoning laws. One of the most significant pieces of that measure is that it would allow communities to change zoning by simple majority vote. Right now, zoning changes require a two-thirds majority.

    On both occasions, Gittelman cited MHP's recent "Unlock the Commonwealth" report, which made eight policy recommendations the state should consider so that the private market can respond more quickly to housing demand.

    In  her June 16 column, Gittelman leaves no doubt she's excited about these proposals and their potential to give local leaders the tools they need build more housing. She writes:

    These proposals are for the benefit of all communities, but they would be particularly helpful to communities that have shown a genuine interest in increasing housing production but find themselves hamstrung by old rules.

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