The United States is in an affordable housing crisis; the problem is particularly acute in Massachusetts. Local zoning—especially in the form of density controls—is probably the most significant cause of the crisis. To mitigate the power of local zoning Massachusetts passed the Comprehensive Permit Law, which allows local zoning boards of appeals to override local zoning if certain requirements are met. One of those requirements, a government subsidy to the developer, has in some instances hindered the construction of affordable housing. Typically, a subsidy is required as an incentive to builders; otherwise their projects would not be profitable enough for them. In localities where real estate values are high, however, a density bonus (being able to develop more units on the same piece of land) may be enough to incentivize builders. In areas where subsidies are not necessary, project oversight, now largely performed by subsidizing agencies, should be performed by the Department of Housing and Community Development or local housing authorities.
Expanding the Effectiveness of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Law by Eliminating Its Subsidy Requirement,
B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev.