Payano Says Amendment to Senate Housing Bill Pays Benefits to Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence

The Massachusetts Senate last week outlined its approach to creating affordable housing and approved a related amendment from Sen. Pavel M. Payano that would double payments certain developers would have to pay for dense housing projects.

Payano’s amendment affects the state’s controversial Chapter 40R overlay zoning designed to promote residential and mixed-use developments near transit stations by increasing developers’ one-time, upfront incentive payments and per-unit bonus payments from $3,000 to $6,000. Payano credited the state law for previously helping to create 362 housing units in downtown Haverhill. The senator said in a Friday statement his amendment, if ultimately included in a reconciliation with a House housing bill, will benefit Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen.

“Inflation has degraded the incentives over time. In Haverhill, a smart growth district was essential to the preservation of the downtown district. In 2007, these payments were more effective. We now must ensure that the incentives keep up with rising inflation. The 40R program has been allocated $50 million and this does not ask for new state funding. This will hopefully entice more municipalities to take advantage of available funding under Chapter 40R.” he said on the Senate floor.

The Senate unanimously approved its Affordable Homes Act that would, among other things, prohibit communities from banning or placing unreasonable restriction on accessory dwelling units; set aside $200 million for the CommonWealth Builder program in gateway cities for first-time homebuyers; provide up to $2.2 billion for repairs, rehabilitation and renovation of 43,000 units of public housing and $150 million make public housing energy efficient; $425 million for communities, nonprofits and developers for housing preservation, new construction and rehabilitation of affordable rental units; provide $50 million for MassDreams down payment and closing cost grants to certain first-time homebuyers; and provide $375 million partly for improving water, sewer and septic systems tied to housing developments.

Senate President Karen E. Spilka said the bill, championed by Sen. Lydia M. Edwards of Boston, chair of the Senate Committee on Housing, corrects “decades of underinvestment that has led to our housing crisis.”

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