HAC in the News Archives

Housing that works

Posted on Wed, Apr 07, 2010

This is another in an occasional series of editorials opposing the repeal of Chapter 40B, the state's affordable housing law.

Chapter 40B affordable housing developments on Cape Cod have not been without controversy.

Unfortunately, some developers have used the law, which allows builders to skip some regulatory hurdles as long as they provide lower-cost units, as a hammer over local boards.

Anxious neighbors, concerned about the possible negative effects of Chapter 40B housing on their own property values, have protested proposed developments in Osterville, Harwich and elsewhere.

But, overall, Chapter 40B has worked on Cape Cod and across the state.

Last year, Tufts University conducted a long-term study of four affordable housing developments originally opposed by local residents and officials.

The Tufts team, led by Rachel Bratt, professor of urban and environmental policy and planning, reviewed the initial arguments of the opponents and then evaluated the outcomes of the occupied buildings three years later.

The four affordable housing developments selected for the study were the Kayla Rosenberg House in Newton; The Preserve in Walpole; Hastings Village in Wellesley; and Dickson Meadow in Weston.

Arguments against the four developments included concerns over neighborhood safety, negative environmental impacts, increased traffic, decreased value of abutting properties, and overwhelmed municipal services, such as schools and emergency services.

After examining the four developments, the Tufts team concluded that "none of the predicted outcomes and fears" materialized. In fact, several positive outcomes resulted.

The study found that the developments added to the attractiveness of the neighborhoods. Traffic problems did not occur, property values did not decrease, and no adverse social conditions in the community resulted.

Here on Cape Cod, there have been similar success stories in Falmouth, Sandwich, Barnstable and several other towns.

Since its inception in 1969, Chapter 40B has led to the creation of nearly 56,000 affordable homes statewide, and there are another 10,900 approved for construction.

Considering that the average price of a single-family home in most parts of the state is $285,000, and a family of four with a combined annual income of $65,000 can only afford a $180,000 home, this is no time to repeal Chapter 40B.

That's the consensus of more than 110 business, civic, religious, academic, environmental, health care and municipal officials across the state who support Chapter 40B.

They include John Klimm, Barnstable town manager; Rick Presbrey, executive director of the Housing Assistance Corp. in Hyannis; and Victoria Goldsmith of Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod.

"First-time buyers still can't afford to live in the communities where they grew up, the elderly cannot afford to stay in the communities where they have lived their entire lives; and veterans can't find an affordable a place to live when they return home," said Tripp Jones, chairman of the Committee Against Repealing the Housing Law. "Sixty percent of voters recently surveyed said Massachusetts needs more affordable housing. So, we must protect the law that makes affordable housing possible."

Chapter 40B produces more units of affordable housing than any other housing program in the commonwealth. The law also encourages a goal of at least 10 percent of affordable housing in each community across the state. A total of 51 municipalities have met this standard — more than double the number in 1997.

Tripp said an additional 40 communities are close to reaching the 10 percent goal, "demonstrating the significant progress this law has made in the creation of affordable housing."