Abundant Housing MA — Statement on Local Option Housing Bills

Originally published Jan. 17, 2020 on Medium.

Abundant Housing Massachusetts (AHMA) is a new, statewide pro-housing organization launching in 2020. Our complete organizational mission is included below the following statement.

The following statement was prepared by (AHMA) founding steering committee member Jarred Johnson, and cosigned by members Beyazmin Jiminez, Molly Goodman, Burhan Azeem, Jacob Oppenheim, and Jesse Kanson-Benanav.

I’m Jarred Johnson with Abundant Housing Massachusetts, a new group organizing Pro-Housing residents across Greater Boston and the state who are dedicated to zoning reform and making sure cities, towns, and neighborhoods across Mass are doing their part to solve the housing crisis. One of the chief causes of this housing crisis is the restrictive zoning across the state that concentrates the majority of development in only a handful of places. These exclusionary policies exemplify the unwillingness of some cities and towns to build the multi-family and affordable housing the state needs. We support any legislation that makes it easier for municipal governments to upzone single-family neighborhoods, especially around transit. We also support legislation that would force those municipalities that artificially suppress their housing supply through exclusionary single-family zoning to build the transit-oriented developments that the state so desperately needs.

We understand though, that zoning changes do not happen in a vacuum and that the structural changes around zoning will take some time for the benefits to be felt by low-income residents. That is why bills like H3924 & H1316, as well as the set of bills related to both the real estate transfer fee, right to purchase and right of first refusal, are crucial. As we build the housing we need around the region, we need to have the tools necessary to stop unfair rent hikes, building clearouts and allow tenants and non-profit to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing. We need to have the tools to limit rent increases, generate revenue for affordable housing, and give tenants more rights. All the while, we must build towards a future where renters have the best protection of all — numerous affordable choices of where to live, leaving no one at the mercy of their landlord.

I’d also like to add “Right to counsel” as one of the best ways to help protect current tenants from unfair evictions and illegal practices.

As valuable as the local option bills are, we hope the legislature can enact statewide or regionwide tenant protections and rent regulation to give renters uniformity and predictability as they move around the region. We want to and to ensure that all municipalities are doing their part to supply housing and protect tenants.

I hope that the legislature is able to embrace bold actions like the state of Oregon which abolished single-family zoning, allowing fourplexes in every town and city AND capped rent increases. Or like California, which capped rent increases AND and is close to requiring transit-connected and job-rich cities across the state to build much more multi-family housing, while providing protection for low-income neighborhoods.