HUD Archives: News Releases

Kristine Foye
(617) 994-8218
For Release
August 10, 2006

Massachusetts seen as national model for cutting red tape

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today presented the Massachusetts Department of
Housing and Community Development with the Robert L. Woodson, Jr. Award for reducing burdensome regulations
that unnecessarily inflate the cost of housing. Massachusetts is one of four recipients being recognized by HUD as national models in the effort to reducing unnecessary, outdated, and duplicative regulations that put the cost of housing out of reach of police officers, firefighters, teachers, returning veterans, and many other hardworking Americans.

"Because hard working families can't afford to live in their own communities, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development is developing creative solutions in breaking down existing barriers to affordable housing," said Taylor Caswell, HUD regional director. "Although we still have a lot of work to do, Massachusetts is definitely moving in the right direction."

The Robert L. Woodson, Jr. Award is named in memory of HUD's late chief of staff and is designed to recognize
state and local governments who aggressively work to reduce regulatory barriers to affordable housing. This year's other three recipients are San Jose, Calif.; Mount Joy Borough, Pa.; and Suffolk County, N.Y.

Since 1970, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a leader in addressing its affordable housing needs in its implementation of its widely known Chapter 40B or "anti-snob zoning program." This program allows the state to override local zoning and approve affordable housing developments if local affordable housing goals have not been met. Despite the existence of this program, however, the state has seen a dramatic increase in the price of housing over the past two decades. Housing prices have increased 200 percent over that period and building permits have decreased precipitously.

While the program has resulted in the construction of over 35,000 affordable housing units since its inception, some communities have expressed concerns about the 40B approval process, which they believe has resulted in the approval of some housing developments that were not consistent with local needs. To address these issues, the
state Department of Housing and Community Development assembled a statewide task force to review the law and
to make recommendations to keep it strong and effective while improving the way it is administered. Those recommendations have since allowed local governments the opportunity to assure that affordable housing proposals are appropriate, while giving communities new opportunities to meet their affordable housing goals, as well as technical assistance to meet those goals. As a result of the task force's recommended changes, 75 new local affordable housing plans have been created since 2003. Between 2002-2005, housing permits have increased 34 percent (17,465 � 23,480), 20 percent of which used Chapter 40B.

The task force's specific actions include:

  • Developed a Task Force to reaffirm the need for affordable housing, analyze Chapter 40B to study its effectiveness and appropriateness, and propose possible modifications to the Statute.
  • Created initiatives to provide assistance to communities experiencing problems with the technical and public relations aspects of developing affordable housing.
  • Streamlined and consolidated the planning process, allowing developers and municipalities to work together.
  • Developed an online "Planning and Housing Development Toolkit" offering guidance and resources for local communities leaders to utilize in creating affordable housing plans.

"On behalf of Governor Mitt Romney, I am delighted that Massachusetts is being recognized by HUD for its efforts
to build more affordable housing all across the state," said Jane Wallis Gumble, director of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. "We have worked very hard over the years initiating regulatory changes to help break down the barriers that impede new housing construction. We are seeing the results now with an increased number of annual housing starts, including an almost three-fold increase in multi-family housing. Those results allow us to continue on our mission of providing safe, decent and affordable housing opportunities
throughout the Commonwealth."

The presentation was held in Bedford because the Town of Bedford has been a shining example of how communities, through a spirit of cooperation, can develop affordable housing in the right way and on their terms. Currently, 13.1 percent of Bedford's housing stock is designated as affordable. (NOTE to reporters � for information on the
percent of affordable housing in your local community, please call DCHD at (617) 573-1104.)

America's Affordable Community Initiative
Regulatory barriers to affordable housing are public regulatory requirements, payments or processes that
significantly impede the development and availability of affordable housing without providing a commensurate health and/or safety benefit. These barriers can impede housing rehabilitation, limit supply and raise the cost of new development by up to 35 percent. As a result, millions of Americans are priced out of buying or renting the kind of housing they otherwise could afford.

In 2003, HUD made barrier reduction one of the Department's top priorities and created America's Affordable Community Initiative. HUD continues to review its own regulations to identify those that effectively discourage
the production of affordable housing. Meanwhile, HUD is aggressively working with state and local leaders to create more affordable housing-friendly environments around the country. For more information about this important
priority, visit

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet
and For more information about FHA products, please visit


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