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BOSTON-A package of affordable housing bills that has passed the House is currently being debated in the Senate. The legislation includes a controversial amendment on how to define affordable housing.

One of the bills in the Senate–which is similar to the House version–authorizes $508 million in bond spending to develop and maintain affordable housing. This was passed with very little changes from the House, according to a representative from state Senator Steven Panagiotakos’s office. Panagiotakos is the chairman of the housing committee in the Senate.

But it is the definition of affordable housing that is sparking the most debate in this package. This was scheduled for debate yesterday but was put off because of the recent terrorist attacks. Panagiotakos’s representative tells GlobeSt.com that the senator “does not support adding section 8 vouchers or mobile homes” to the definition of affordable housing.

According to current state law, 10% of a community’s housing stock must be deemed affordable. In the House version of the bill, the definition of affordable housing was expanded to include mobile homes and people receiving federal rent subsidies. This would allow many communities to comply with the law without adding to the affordable-housing supply. This measure has been roundly criticized by affordable housing advocates but has been supported by some suburban legislators.

“When 40B was established with the 10% threshold it did not include these two definitions,” notes Panagiotakos’s representative. “We have a dire shortage of affordable housing and by adding these two definitions we would put 67 communities over the threshold without adding any affordable housing to the supply.” Currently 23 communities have reached the 10% threshold.

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