Thursday, April 22, 2021

"we don’t build enough homes for everyone"

"PASSING AMBITIOUS LEGISLATION matters for obvious reasons, but so too does the rule-making process that follows a law’s passage. Final language often leaves state agencies with tremendous leeway, and real-world impact can vary widely based on administrative decisions that often get far less public scrutiny. Political scientist Leah Stokes calls this the “fog of enactment,” which opens the door for better-resourced interest groups and engaged insiders to water down the impact of landmark legislation.

Responding to years of advocacy for zoning reform, the Legislature recently passed a new transit oriented development law requiring cities and towns in the MBTA service area to create at least one zoning district that legalizes modest multi-family housing construction of at least 15 units per acre. The new law is a great opportunity to address our region’s housing crisis, but critical details remain to be worked out through a complex rule-making process involving the Department of Housing and Community Development, Department of Transportation, and the MBTA – which could last for much of the coming year. Depending on where this process lands, this promising new law could, in practice, net thousands of new homes – or almost none. "

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