Chapter 40B's Local Impact
Chapter 40B helps communities meet the Commonwealth’s housing needs, by providing a flexible zoning approval process that allows for the creation of new homes for individuals, families, and older adults, across a range of incomes. Comprehensive permits issued under Chapter 40B allow for streamlined approvals of mixed-income rental and homeownership housing, even when those housing proposals require waivers of local zoning. Chapter 40B does not allow developers to override state and federal statutes and regulations, including state and federal environmental protections.
Chapter 40B is the state’s regional planning statute, and the law seeks to ensure that all 351 of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns provide housing opportunities for lower-income working households and older adults.
At the same time, Chapter 40B provides ample opportunities for municipalities to control their own housing growth.
Cities and towns that achieve a minimum housing affordability threshold of 10 percent may reject 40B comprehensive permit applications without facing an appeal from the developer, giving such cities and towns great discretion over 40B proposals.
Chapter 40B regulations also extend safe harbor status to towns below the 10 percent housing affordability threshold that meet minimum housing growth targets. Municipalities that have planned for housing growth through an approved Housing Production Plan may achieve temporary safe harbor status under Chapter 40B with affordable housing growth of 0.5 percent per year.
In Eastern and Central Massachusetts, the median town would need to add less than 30 affordable units per year under an approved Housing Production Plan to achieve this temporary safe harbor status and maintain robust local control over Chapter 40B development.
MassHousing encourages residents and municipalities to be active participants in shaping their housing development futures by engaging in thoughtful planning for affordable housing growth. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development provides cities and towns with a one-stop shop for planning and local technical assistance resources. Additionally, MassHousing has made $2 million available through the Planning for Housing Production Grant Program to help cities and towns implement their planning goals, and achieve safe harbor status under Chapter 40B.
MassHousing works collaboratively with the state’s other Chapter 40B subsidizing agencies to provide resources and technical assistance to municipalities with active comprehensive permit applications before their zoning boards of appeal. The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) leads these efforts, on behalf of the subsidizing agencies. Municipalities with active 40B proposals should consult MHP's 40B handbook for zoning boards of appeal, and contact MHP to access 40B technical assistance resources.
The nonprofit Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association maintains an active database of affordable homes for sale and rent, including affordable homes produced under Chapter 40B. Prospective homebuyers and renters may access the CHAPA database here. Homebuyers may learn more about the mortgage opportunities MassHousing offers here.