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Senator Moran Emphasizes Local Input in Letter Addressing MBTA Zoning Requirements

Earlier this month, I participated in a briefing hosted by Representative Andy Vargas in collaboration with the Department of Housing & Community Development on addressing the Commonwealth's affordable housing crisis.

Joined by a panel of housing experts, including Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, Representative James Arciero, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, Senator John Keenan, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, and Representative Kevin Honan, Chair of the Steering Committee, the briefing focused on DHCD's new guidelines on multi-family zoning in MBTA-adjacent communities. Established through reforms made in the 2021 Economic Development bill, these new guidelines create a framework to maximize use of land bordering MBTA services and tackle the shortage of available housing in the state for low and middle income families.

The rise of housing costs has had a ripple effect on our communities. Not only do increases in rent and home purchase prices limit the potential for economic growth and the ability to bring people to our lovely communities, they are actually driving longtime residents out of their homes and away from the district. Spending more on housing means less for other basic necessities, and many families do not have the financial wiggle room to keep up.

Local employers are finding it increasingly difficult to staff their businesses, as salaries cannot keep up with costs of living. These difficulties are particularly pronounced for vulnerable populations like seniors and people in recovery or with disabilities, as extenuating circumstances limit their housing choices even further.

Municipalities play a key role in the development of new housing stock. Local zoning and permitting, as well as public advocacy, are ultimately the determining factors of whether or not housing is built. The perspectives of cities and towns must be addressed if the Commonwealth is to solve the housing crisis. Not all communities are equally prepared to take on this challenge though, as has become apparent with the raising of concerns relative to adequate sewer and water infrastructure, funding for new construction, and traffic mitigation by town officials.

In the attached letter, submitted to Secretary Kennealy, I emphasize how the successful implementation of the new zoning guidance will require an active partnership between state and local stakeholders to provide an open ear, and resources when necessary, so housing costs are no longer the limiting factor for families who wish to participate in all that our communities have to offer.

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