BOSTON-The state Department of Housing and Community Development here has added new rules to its affordable-housing law, angering developers who contend that additional regulations make it more difficult for them to develop affordable housing.

Under the state’s affordable-housing law–Chapter 40B–developers are required to apply for comprehensive permits in order to be able to develop affordable projects. With the new state regulations, additional requirements will need to be met for developers applying for those permits. Included are limitations on the size of housing projects based upon the size of the town in which the development is to be built. This is the regulation that angers developers most as towns with fewer housing units usually have more space for larger projects. “This cap was introduced late in the process,” Joy Conway, senior vice president for government and industry affairs at the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, tells “We aren’t convinced of the rationale for it. A community with a small number of housing units could have land available but the new formula gets in the way of rational planning and housing development that makes sense.”

In addition, developers will also need to inform the state when they are applying for a comprehensive permit and then have a waiting period to insure that developers don’t apply for too many of those permits. The DHCD did not return calls by presstime.

Chapter 40B was enacted in the 1970s to encourage affordable housing but the law has become a divisive issue between developers, suburban towns and urban areas. The law is supposed to encourage towns and cities to set aside 10 percent of their housing stock as affordable. Anything short of that allows developers to include affordable housing in their projects and get a comprehensive permit from the state, bypassing local zoning regulations. Many town officials insist that developers take advantage of the law to ram their proposals through local zoning boards. But city officials feel the law helps alleviate the housing crisis within the urban areas.

A number of amendments to the law have passed the state House of Representatives, which include counting mobile homes and mobile-home vouchers–which are housing subsidies for low and moderate-income people–towards a community’s percentage of affordable housing. That bill now awaits review in the state Senate.

Conway says that the Real Estate Board opposes this legislation because it doesn’t add towards a community’s supply of affordable housing. “40B was supposed to encourage production of affordable housing,” she points out. “The mobile homes and the vouchers don’t add to the supply. Some communities will meet the ten percent goal without producing housing.”

According to Conway, if the legislation passes the Senate and changes 40B in a significant way, the Department of Housing and Community Development will have to change these regulations again.

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