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BOSTON-The Joint Committee on Housing and Urban Development, a legislative committee, has approved a plan that would penalize communities that don’t build a minimum required amount of affordable housing. Towns and cities in the state that don’t increase affordable housing by 2% within two years until they reach a 5% level within four levels would be penalized. According to Sioubhan Coyle, a researcher for the committee, a study commission is currently deciding the penalty.

Legislators who support the bill reportedly state that it is the housing supply in the state that is impeding its economic development. They believe this bill will correct the housing issue. The bill would allow group homes for mentally disabled people, and accessory apartments, to count toward affordable housing requirements. Tax exemptions would also be allowed for Downtown development of residential or mixed commercial properties. Communities may apply for a waiver of the affordable housing requirement if they can demonstrate an insufficient market demand for housing.

Local town and city officials have objected to the law because developers who had their commercial proposals rejected would sometimes then file affordable housing proposals, seemingly in an effort to strong arm the town or city into accepting their proposals. In an effort to prevent developers from taking advantage of the law, a 12-month waiting period would be required for filing affordable housing proposals if a developer’s proposal was rejected.

The bill would also require the formation of a special commission to study homelessness as well as a requirement that rent be escrowed for tenants involved in disputes with owners. Affordable housing advocates support the bill but are reportedly concerned that the legislature now won’t funnel $20 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

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