Legislature OKs funding for Ch. 40R incentives

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A 2007 supplemental appropriations bill passed by the Legislature Oct. 11 includes a $15 million transfer targeted mostly to the Chapter 40R Trust Fund to ensure that communities that have adopted 40R will receive promised incentive payments.

The bill also allocates up to $10 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund from the Bay State Competitiveness Investment Fund.

The bill is currently on the governor’s desk. The governor had proposed the $15 million transfer for Chapter 40R as part of his version of the supplemental budget.

The $15 million transfer is from MassHousing (derived from repaid SHARP loans) to the Department of Housing and Community Development to fund 40R incentive payments, planning, technical assistance and an employer-assisted housing program. The bill also calls for a transfer of SHARP loan repayments for these purposes on an annual basis.

Since the inception of Chapter 40R – the “smart growth” zoning incentive program – a few years ago, cities and towns across the state have actively engaged in developing much-needed affordable and market-rate housing units under its framework.

More than 5,600 units in 15 cities and towns have been zoned and approved under Chapter 40R. Another five communities are seeking approval of 40R plans that would zone an additional 2,000 to 2,400 units. Five others have applied for or have received state grants to pursue 40R projects for more than 1,000 additional housing units. And nearly 20 other communities are considering 40R development initiatives, from Nantucket to Williamstown.

While municipalities are electing to use the new 40R framework, which requires concentrated development in 40R districts, the incentives to communities promised under the statute have been jeopardized by a lack of funding provided by the state.

At the time the bill passed, the 40R Trust was oversubscribed by more than $4 million.

The MMA, a proponent of 40R, argues that cities and towns have little incentive to proceed with 40R projects unless there is a credible plan for providing incentive funding under the program and its sister statute, Chapter 40S, which provides assistance to offset educational costs associated with 40R developments.

Chapter 40R was enacted by the Legislature and signed into law in the summer of 2004. Under the program, municipalities that adopt an overlay zoning district in areas of concentrated development or near public transit are eligible to receive various financial incentives.

Written by Administrator