What is "Affordable Housing"?
In an effort to address the
increasing lack of availability of affordable housing in
Massachusetts, a law was passed nearly 40 years ago to
promote the construction of affordable housing throughout
Massachusetts. This law, Chapter 40B of the Massachusetts
General Laws, allows local zoning boards to apply more
flexible rules to the new construction so long as 20-25% or
more of the housing units being built are designated as
affordable, and remain affordable, for the long term. The
goals is to have 10% or more of a city or town's housing
inventory as affordable. Under Chapter 40B many affordable
housing projects have been built which would not have been
able to have been built under the traditional zoning rules.
The affordable housing units which have been built include
elderly-housing, single-family subdivisions which include
affordable housing units, multi-family housing units and
Cities and towns have
worked towards increasing the volume of affordable housing
through their zoning laws.
Inclusionary zoning programs mandate that residential real
estate developers make some of their housing affordable.
Incentive zoning programs provide that the developers
receive favorable zoning treatment in exchange for setting
aside some housing units as affordable housing.
Additionally, the state and many cities have created
agencies and have devoted funds for projects which create
affordable housing units. For
Massachusetts Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF), which is
administered by MassHousing and the
Department of Housing and Community Development
provides resources to both create and
preserve affordable housing for eligible buyers. The state
provides funds for affordable rental, home ownership and
mixed-use projects as well as housing for the disabled and
homeless. These funds are used primarily to support private
housing projects that provide for the acquisition,
construction or preservation of affordable housing.
An example of a city agency
devoted to affordable housing is the Boston Redevelopment
Authority (BRA). The BRA aims to ensure home ownership for
low and moderate income households. Using public land and
with the help of developers, financing assistance, and
relief from regulation, housing is made affordable by
lowering the purchase price to well below market values.
The City of
Boston's Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) is
another city agency committed to creating affordable housing
in the City of Boston. DND provides affordable
opportunities, homebuyer assistance and other housing
services with the use of public resources.
are many city and state agencies devoted to affordable
housing, it is recommended that an interested home
buyer check each city and town, as well as the other state
agencies, to see what is available, as the foregoing is a
small, and by no means exhaustive, list.
if not all, affordable housing opportunities require that
the prospective buyer(s) meet certain criteria such as
household income, owner-occupancy, first-time home buyer
requirements, etc. to be eligible to buy an affordable
housing unit. Due to the high demand for these
affordable housing units, many qualified buyers must
participate in lotteries to establish priority amongst
Affordable housing units are usually of the same quality and
appearance as the market-rate housing units and, for all
practical purposes, share most, if not all, of the same
benefits appurtenant to the higher priced dwellings.
The price, however, is substantially lower. Of course,
there are usually
restrictions associated with ownership, use and sale of
the affordable housing units.