Mass voters reject challenge to 40B affordable housing law


State House News Service – Massachusetts voters on Tuesday preserved a controversial law that supporters credit for producing much of the state’s suburban area affordable housing.

Voters rejected Question 2, which sought to repeal the law known as Chapter 40B. That law makes it easier for developers to build multi-unit housing developments, as long as some of the units are affordable, in communities where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable.

With 84 percent of precincts reporting, 58 percent of voters rejected the question, with 42 percent favoring repeal.

Supporters of the law emphasized its role in delivering affordable homes to working families, seniors and people with disabilities. Groups like the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and the Massachusetts Council of Churches opposed Question 2.

Repeal supporters, frustrated that legislative and regulatory changes to the law had not addressed their concerns over the years, had argued that the law helps produce affordable housing but forces the growth of mostly high density, market-rate housing and that it destroys open space and stretches local infrastructure and services.

The coalition formed to oppose Question 2 claimed Chapter 40B as “the single most effective tool for creating affordable housing for the seniors and working families.” The law’s supporters over the years have referred to it as the ant-snob zoning law.

“With the decisive defeat of Question 2 voters today preserved the state’s affordable housing law, ensuring that hard-working families and seniors have a place to call home and protecting thousands of jobs,” No on 2 spokeswoman Francy Ronayne said in a statement. “The largest grassroots state-wide coalition of its kind –academic, business, civic, civil rights, environmental, housing, labor, religious, and senior groups – came together to protect the affordable housing law. This victory is a testament to their determination and commitment to that fact that everyone should have access to affordable housing in Massachusetts. We are grateful for their support and proud of our fellow citizens for taking a stand in support of affordable housing.”

If passed, the question would have repealed the law on Jan. 1, 2011.

Both supporters and opponents of Chapter 40B used affordability as part of their cases for and against the law. Supporters said the state’s lack of affordable housing creates barriers to economic growth while the law’s opponents said the lack of affordable housing in Massachusetts means 40B is producing mostly market rate homes.