[Hpn] House approves changes to affordable housing law...Boston,Ma.
Tue, 3 Jul 2001 09:38:05 -0400
House approves changes to affordable housing law
Tuesday, July 3, 2001
BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts communities would be able to count
federal housing vouchers and mobile homes as affordable housing units under
a bill approved by House lawmakers on Monday.
The move is seen as a victory for suburban lawmakers who pushed to
expand the definition of affordable housing under the state's 1969
"anti-snob zoning" law.
That law seeks to encourage the development of new, lower-cost
by requiring communities to keep at least 10 percent of their housing for
low- or moderate-income families.
Under the law, communities that do not reach the goal have a harder
time blocking developers who want to build affordable housing, even if the
development is in violation of local zoning codes.
Suburban lawmakers say the law is faulty and lets developers threaten
massive housing projects as a way of getting local zoning boards to agree
"Developers are using the permission granted in (the law) to override
local zoning," said state Rep. Marie Parente, D-Milford.
But affordable housing activists say the proposed changes undermine
the intent of the law.
"This would allow more than 60 communities off the hook without
building a single new unit of affordable housing," said Joseph Kriesberg,
vice president of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development
Opponents say allowing communities to count federal "Section 8"
vouchers as affordable housing is confusing because the vouchers are given
to individuals and can be transferred when they move.
"They can take this voucher with them to other communities. It would
be hard to track," said Rep. Kay Khan, D-Newton.
The bill would make other changes, including a threat of sanctions
against any community that has not already reached their affordable housing
goal and does not increase its affordable housing stock 2 percent during
next three years.
Other highlights of the bill include:
-- Setting up special commissions to study homelessness and look at
the definition of affordable housing;
-- Allowing communities to count Department of Mental Health and
Department of Mental Retardation group homes as affordable housing;
-- Allowing communities to add affordable housing units to their
as soon as they approved instead of waiting for building permits.
The bill also requires tenants who are served with an eviction notice
to present a court with back rent and receipts of any repairs made to make
the apartment livable.
If the tenant fails to produce the rent and receipts, there will be a
legal presumption that the landlord is entitled to all the back rent for
previous six months.
Republican lawmakers had sought to force tenants who are withholding
rent to pay into an escrow account until the dispute was resolved.
The affordable housing bill now heads to the Massachusetts Senate.
The House last week approved a separate five-year, $508 million
housing bond bill designed to improve and boost affordable and public
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