Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone testifies before the Joint Committee on Housing at the State House on May 14 in support of the Housing Choices Act. Also testifying were (l-r) Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChappelle, Barnstable Planning and Development Director Elizabeth Jenkins, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, and Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.

At a hearing before the Joint Committee on Housing on May 14, the MMA joined a coalition of groups responsible for building housing to renew their call for the Legislature to enact the governor’s Act to Promote Housing Choices (H. 3507).

The Housing Choices Act would make it easier for communities to enact local zoning changes that encourage housing development. The bill would reduce the vote threshold for passing housing-related zoning amendments and special permits from a two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority of the local legislative body.

In its testimony, the MMA argued that the bill would give municipalities the ability to increase higher-density housing production, while ensuring that new developments align with community and neighborhood needs.

“Passing this bill now would kick-start a wave of community-based proposals to increase housing production,” MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith said in a May 14 coalition press statement. “This bill – modest in its terms but bold in its impact – will make an enormous difference in Massachusetts.”

Beckwith has called the Housing Choices Act “the most significant zoning reform measure in five decades.”

The MMA Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the Housing Choices Act when it was originally filed last year, and the MMA joined an unprecedented coalition with 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 to advocate for passage of the bill.

At the May 14 hearing, the coalition requested that the bill be enacted without any divisive or weakening amendments that would impose state-set zoning standards, override local decision-making, or create new avenues for costly and unnecessary litigation.

Also testifying in support of the Housing Choices Act were municipal officials from across the state, including Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Barnstable Planning and Development Director Elizabeth Jenkins, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Michael Kennealy also spoke in support of their bill.

The Housing Committee, co-chaired by Rep. Kevin Honan and Sen. Brendan Crighton, heard testimony on a number of housing production bills during a hearing that lasted several hours.

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