Chapter 40B, as I understand it, allows … well, let’s let my best friend (and Harvard professor) Edward L. Glaeser explain it, in this column appearing in the Boston Globe:

Chapter 40B is “a law that is something of a “get out of jail free” card for developers facing tough land use controls in areas with little affordable housing. Developers can use Chapter 40B to escape from the ever-thickening web of local rules, if at least 20 percent of their units are affordable.” (But, only if the town or city doesn’t have at least 10% “affordable housing stock” within its limits.)

It sounds good, and I’ve generally supported it.

Here’s how I see it. Developers are driven by desire for profit, right? So, if you put restrictions on how much money they can make, you aren’t going to get as much development, right?

Chapter 40B alleviates a developer’s concern over making a profit, because he can build bigger than he could otherwise, spreading his costs and increasing his revenue, right?

Towns across the Commonwealth aren’t sure they’re happy about it, or, should I say, residents of towns across the Commonwealth, basically because the housing built is more dense than would be allowed otherwise, and less attractive (I think because condos and townhouses are usually built, rather than a single home on an acre of land). Plus, townfolk complain about the added pressure put on the local infrastructure, mainly the public schools.

Anyway, I forget my point. Basically, I guess it’s that I don’t really care for restrictions on growth. I am a fan of capitalism, of the free-market economy, in an Ayn Rand sort of way.

Here’s another example of what developers are up against, this time in regard to plans to build the Two Financial Center office condo office tower:

The project incorporates the key public benefits approved by the BRA’s original 2000 vote, which includes:

* approximately $571,000 in housing linkage funds;
* $114,200 in jobs linkage funds;
* public realm improvements along Essex Street;
* a commitment to participate in the maintenance of the proposed Leather District Gateway Park;
* underground parking available for neighborhood use;
* street-level retail opportunities designed to encourage occupancy by businesses serving the needs of local residents of the adjacent Leather District and Chinatown neighborhoods; and,
* completion of the urban streetscape where a surface parking lot now exists.

Additionally, the developer will:

* contribute $214,000 to be used for the enhancement of Essex Street pursuant to the Mayor’s Crossroads Initiative; and,
* $20,000 to be used for up-keep and cleaning in Chinatown by Project Place.

That’s a lot of linkage.

You could say, well, that’s the cost of doing business. But, you could also say that the property taxes the new development will bring is should be good enough.

In both situations, you have the government attempting to resolve an issue in a somewhat perverted way. Regarding 40B, you have the state forcing towns and cities to allow housing they wouldn’t, otherwise, which is an admirable goal, but shoving 40-100 condominium units into a 2-acre lot off Route 9 might not be of benefit to anyone. It’s a band-aid, perhaps. Similarly, with the city’s linkage program, a lot of the payments required have very little to do with an office building – affordable housing and jobs linkage funds?

Let the developers build what they want to build, within zoning regulations, and deal with the affordable housing issue on its own, is what I suggest. And, the solution to the affordable housing issue is a simple one in my opinion – let the developers build expensive housing, and the trickle-down effect will mean more housing for those at the bottom of the ladder.

It’s worked before.

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Updated: 1st Quarter 2018

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