Dear Senator,

The Massachusetts Municipal Association strongly supports An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth, S. 2842. The bill contains a number of important provisions that would help support a wide range of housing initiatives and essential economic investments throughout the Commonwealth.

Please Support the Consensus Housing Choices Act and Oppose Amendments to Override Local Decision-Making and Zoning Authority
The economic development bond bill before you today would be even more meaningful with the addition of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Housing Choices Act, as amended by the Joint Committee on Housing (Amendment 9), which would make it easier for communities to enact local zoning changes that encourage housing development, by allowing housing-related zoning amendments and special permits to be approved by a simple majority of the local body, rather than the two-thirds supermajority currently required by state law. Reducing the approval vote to a majority would bring powerful and meaningful change that would facilitate zoning changes for the production of housing while maintaining hometown democracy and ensuring that citizens retain their voice.

Along with the MMA, the Housing Choices Act has the strong support of a diverse coalition of stakeholder groups responsible for building housing, including the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, and NAIOP – The Commercial Real Estate Development Association. True progress in economic development and housing production can only be achieved when the state, stakeholders, and its cities and towns work together as partners.

We respectfully and urgently ask that you support Amendment 9 to add the consensus Housing Choices Act to S. 2842, and strongly ask you to reject any amendments that would impose state-set zoning standards, override local decision-making, or create new avenues for costly and unnecessary litigation. This is why we respectfully and urgently ask you to reject Amendments 1, 55, 174, and 269. The MMA is opposing these amendments – adoption of any of these would unravel the broad coalition supporting the bill, and lead to another missed opportunity for meaningful progress.

Rather than mandates, local officials and community leaders need resources, tools, incentives and flexibility to solve housing issues within their communities. Now more than ever, cities and towns need support to innovate and create bold approaches to revitalize their existing housing stock and their downtowns. This is why the MMA is asking you to please support Amendments such as 54, 61, 108, 132, 147, 150, 162, 167, 230, and 235. By far the best solution is to empower cities and towns with an easier path to shape their zoning and facilitate housing production that works and is sustainable at the neighborhood and local level.

Please Support the Office of Rural Policy
We respectfully ask that you support Amendment 161, which would create an Office of Rural Policy. The economy of Massachusetts is only as strong as the economies of its cities and towns, and we appreciate your work and ongoing partnership to craft legislation that helps realize the economic potential of all communities across the Commonwealth.

Please Oppose Weakening the Ability of Cities and Towns to Negotiate Host Community Agreements in the Public Interest
We respectfully urge you to oppose Amendment 28, as an overreach that would unwisely interfere with local authority. Contracting between local governments and private entities is a long-established practice, and the changes reflected in this amendment could have a long-term impact on the ability of municipalities to contract freely, even outside the marijuana industry. We oppose state-set impositions that take away municipal authority to negotiate on behalf of their residents.

Summary
We deeply appreciate the wide range of impressive and important investments in S. 2842. We know that you and your colleagues are committed and dedicated to building a strong, healthy and thriving Massachusetts economy, and we respectfully ask you to embrace the amendments before you that would work in partnership with cities and towns to support economic growth in our communities, and to oppose any divisive or weakening amendments that would override local decision-making and the voice of local residents.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Brittney Franklin at bfranklin@mma.org at any time.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO