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BOSTON-A key state legislative committee has proposed revising the state’s controversial affordable housing law to ease restrictions on municipalities struggling to meet the 10% affordable housing requirement.

The Joint Committee on Housing and Urban Development says it has considered 77 bills on the issue during this session. The law, known as Chapter 40B, enables developers to bypass local zoning laws if a town or city does not have 10% of its housing affordable and the developer’s project has at least 25% affordable units. The law was originally created more than 30 years ago to encourage suburban areas to develop more affordable housing and take some of the burden off urban areas. But local communities have long protested that developers are able to take advantage of the law to ram their projects through local governments, leaving towns and cities with little say in what gets built within their borders.

Housing advocates oppose changes to the law, claiming that without the law suburban areas won’t develop affordable housing. Earlier this year, a number of changes were made to the law, but local cities and towns have continued to protest that those revisions were not effective enough. Gov. Mitt Romney put together a task force this past February to examine the issue.

“We have listened to the concerns of communities regarding 40B development applications and the need for increased housing development. We heard from planners, town officials, residents, abutters and developers about the need for a process that takes local concerns into account but that also streamlines the current 40B application procedure,” say committee chairs Sen. Harriette Chandler and Rep. Kevin G. Honan in a statement. “The revisions we are proposing create a balance between the need for new housing development in the commonwealth and the need for local control of such development.”

The bill proposes that developers adding new housing projects must go through a site approval process that takes into account principles of “smart growth” in the development of housing including that the proposed design and density is appropriate for the site. Also, the impact of other pending applications for housing development in the city or town where the project is proposed can be taken into account.

The bill also revises how affordable housing is counted toward a community’s goal of 10% under the current chapter 40B law by counting two times the affordable units in a development instead of 25%; by counting housing created under the community preservation act; by counting group homes and in-law or accessory apartments; and, by counting housing created under local programs. The bill stipulates that counts must be updated every two years.

The bill also includes provisions to limit to the number of comprehensive permits applications, limit the size of applications depending on the size of the community and reward towns that plan and produce up to .5% of total housing stock as affordable housing, by giving them one year off 40B and then the more you build the more time is off.

The bill also proposes that the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership fund will provide technical assistance to communities.

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