Regional Housing

Massachusetts municipalities provide limited housing services directly to residents. Most municipalities have either a local housing authority or belong to a regional housing authority that owns and manages state or federal (in a few instances both state and federal) public housing units. In total, there are 247 local and four regional housing authorities in the Commonwealth.

Some communities have joined together to create consortia to make best use of federal funds for housing development or rehabilitation projects. These consortia directly receive and distribute such funds among their member municipalities. Other regional service organizations that assist communities with housing-related issues include: regional non-profit housing organizations, non-profit housing organizations, community development corporations, and housing partnerships.

Potential benefits of regional housing services include cost savings through coordinated activities and economies of scale, a shared regional and sub-regional vision for development, and shared development authority and tax revenues for communities. Challenges can include inconsistency between the Regional Comprehensive Permits (M.G.L. Chapter 40B) and statutory anti-exclusionary intent and specific language requirements, lack of resources for regional planning, and the need to successfully balance local, regional and state housing goals and interests.

Statutory Requirements

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has oversight of housing in the Commonwealth. Statutory and regulatory requirements related to housing are included in M.G.L. Chapters 23B, 40B, 40O, 40T, 121B, 184 and 760 CMR 4 through 66. Chapter 40B, the Commonwealth’s Comprehensive Permit law, governs the development, administration and management of low-to moderate-income housing in Massachusetts. For municipalities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act, this statute also includes requirements related to the use of CPA funds.

Types of Agreements

M.G.L. Chapter 121B, Section 3A allows cities and towns to form a regional housing authority which may operate in place of the individual municipalities’ housing authorities. The law requires that the resulting contract set forth the rights, powers and obligations of the regional authority.

Intermunicipal agreements and special legislation may also be used to regionalize housing services. The Regional Housing Authorities in Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin Counties were all established through separate special acts of legislation.

Resources

Affordable Housing Production in the Twin Cities
Conducted by the Metropolitan Planning Council
http://stats.metc.state.mn.us/stats/pdf/AffordableHousing_MS2010.pdf

A Three-County Regional Housing Needs Assessment
Conducted by the Dutchess County, New York Planning Department
http://www.co.dutchess.ny.us/countygov/departments/planning/tcrhassessment.pdf

Regional Housing Needs Assessment
Conducted by the Southern California Association of Governments.
http://www.scag.ca.gov/Housing/rhna/index.h

Appendix

DHCD Legal Resources
http://www.mass.gov/hed/economic/eohed/dhcd/legal/

Massachusetts Division of Local Services Analysis of Regional Housing Authority Statute
http://www.mass.gov/dor/docs/dls/mdmstuf/technical-assistance/region-resource/reghousing.pdf

Regional Housing Services in Massachusetts

Franklin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (FCHRA) http://www.fchra.org/       FCHRA serves all 26 towns in Franklin County. It is the Commonwealth’s first regional public housing authority and the only regional redevelopment authority. The regional housing authority assists municipalities and residents in accessing and delivering affordable housing and community development resources. Projects include affordable housing, municipal infrastructure, handicapped accessibility and economic development. 

The Regional Housing Services Office (RHSO) http://www.sudbury.ma.us/departments/CHO/
The Office serves the municipalities of Bedford, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln Weston and Sudbury, and aims to help municipalities monitor and maintain their affordable housing inventory. Municipalities have signed an intermunicipal agreement to contract services with the Town of Sudbury as the lead town. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) drafted the agreement and facilitated the process. 

HOME Consortia
Some communities have organized into consortia or participating jurisdictions to allocate and help administer federal HOME (HOME Investment Partnership Program) funds for housing development, homeownership assistance, tenant-based rental assistance and/or housing rehabilitation projects. The consortium, via a lead community, receives the funds directly and distributes them among its member communities. For example, the North Suburban Consortium serves the communities of Malden, Medford, Arlington, Chelsea, Everett, Revere, Melrose and Winthrop. http://www.northsuburbanconsortium.org/

Regional Housing Outside Massachusetts:

ARCH: A Regional Coalition for Housing http://www.archhousing.org/
The Coalition was established through an inter-local agreement of suburban governments in Eastside King County, WA. Although municipalities continue to work independently, working together through ARCH allows their actions to be coordinated with other members. Municipalities build upon the experiences of other members as they develop their own regulations.