In the early morning hours of Jan. 6, after months of closed-door conference committee negotiations, the Legislature passed a $626 million economic development bond bill (H. 5250).

The bill is aimed at addressing the need to increase housing production, spur community development and business competitiveness, and accelerate economic recovery and growth in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill contains the governor’s Act to Promote Housing Choices, which would change state law to reduce the vote threshold needed to adopt certain zoning changes, from two-thirds to a simple majority. The legislation would not, however, require a community to bring forward any of the specified types of zoning changes.

The Housing Choices Act has been strongly supported by the MMA and a broad coalition of stakeholders including the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and NAIOP – The Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

In addition to this language, however, the bill contains language (in Section 18) that would impose a one-size-fits-all zoning scheme on 175 communities within the MBTA region (see list below), overriding local decision making. Communities in this group that fail to create a zoning district with as-of-right multifamily development would be ineligible for funds from the MassWorks Program, the Housing Choice Initiative, or the state’s Local Capital Projects Fund.

The MMA has opposed this measure in the past, and on Jan. 7 sent a letter to the governor asking him to veto Section 18 of the bill.

List of communities in the three regional categories of the MBTA district that would be penalized by Section 18 if they do not implement state-mandated zoning changes:

Category 1: Bedford, Beverly, Braintree, Burlington, Canton, Cohasset, Concord, Danvers, Dedham, Dover, Framingham, Hamilton, Hingham, Holbrook, Hull, Lexington, Lincoln, Lynn, Lynnfield, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Medfield, Melrose, Middleton, Nahant, Natick, Needham, Norfolk, Norwood, Peabody, Quincy, Randolph, Reading, Salem, Saugus, Sharon, Stoneham, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wakefield, Walpole, Waltham, Wellesley, Wenham, Weston, Westwood, Weymouth, Wilmington, Winchester, Winthrop, Woburn

Category 2: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Revere, Somerville, Watertown

Category 3: Abington, Acton, Amesbury, Andover, Ashburnham, Ashby, Ashland, Attleboro, Auburn, Ayer, Bellingham, Berkley, Billerica, Boxborough, Boxford, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carlisle, Carver, Chelmsford, Dracut, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Essex, Fitchburg, Foxborough, Franklin, Freetown, Georgetown, Gloucester, Grafton, Groton, Groveland, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Haverhill, Harvard, Holden, Holliston, Hopkinton, Ipswich, Kingston, Lakeville, Lancaster, Lawrence, Leicester, Leominster, Littleton, Lowell, Lunenburg, Mansfield, Marlborough, Marshfield, Maynard, Medway, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleborough. Millbury, Millis, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, North Attleborough, Northborough, Northbridge, Norton, North Reading, Norwell, Paxton, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Princeton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Rochester, Rockland. Rockport, Rowley, Salisbury, Scituate, Seekonk, Sherborn, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sterling, Stoughton, Stow, Sudbury, Sutton, Taunton, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsborough, Upton, Wareham, Wayland, West Boylston, West Bridgewater, Westborough, West Newbury, Westford, Westminster, Whitman, Worcester, Wrentham

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