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The state legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing heard a parade of testimony Wednesday from housing advocates, business groups, their colleagues and ordinary voters in support of a bill that aims to supercharge zoning reforms statewide.

The Act to Promote Yes in My Back Yard, introduced by Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn and Rep. Andy Vargas of Haverhill, would make accessory dwelling units legal statewide, expand provisions of the state’s new. Boston-area transit-oriented zoning reforms statewide and set state-level housing production goals, among other provisions. The bill is the brainchild of housing advocacy group Abundant Housing MA.

The goal, backers say, is to circumvent the kinds of exclusionary zoning restrictions still on the books in many towns and cities and short-circuit political obstacles to upzoning neighborhoods while still allowing municipalities a measure of control over where that upzoning takes place.

In over two hours of testimony, leaders from CHAPA, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council declared their support for the measure, along with a succession of supportive residents.

“Year to date, we are 30 percent behind where we were in 2022. That’s a huge drop in housing production. We know we’re losing tens of thousands of people to other states with lower housing costs, that build more housing. And There was news in the last few days that the [state] unemployment rate has dropped to 2.6 percent and employers are having a really difficult time hiring, growing, filing positions. So we are in a state of crisis with housing production,” MHP Executive Director Clark Ziegler told legislators.

Elements of the bill also drew support from several key business groups.

The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts called out zoning restrictions on multifamily development as a primary obstacle to building wealth in minority communities.

” From Springfield to the Merrimack Valley to Boston the number-one concern we’ve heard pertains to the cost and supply of housing. Citizens worry they might never have a cahcne to own their home and build wealth,” said Darrien Johnson, BECMA’s policy lead. “This shortage of affordable homes didn’t just happen. It’s a result of decades of exclusionary zoning polices that have unnecessarily constrained the supply of housing by limiting production to mostly large, single-family homes.”

Statewide business lobby group Associated Industries of Massachusetts also threw its weight behind the YIMBY Bill’s zoning reform elements.

“While we have a few concerns about the inclusionary zoning changes in the YIMBY bill we think the bulk of the se proposals represent a step in the right direction,” said Sam Larson, AIM’s vice president of government affairs.”Massachusetts is on the way to becoming akin to a museum. A nice place to look at, a nice place to visit, a place dedicated to celebrating former success but not a place for growth.”

And even as the legislature’s left-most members have challenged some housing production measures this session, like an effort to add more funds to the HDIP market-rate housing tax credit, several leading progressives are cosponsoring the bill, and two – Boston Rep. Sam Montaña and Cambridge Rep. Mike Connolly – declared their “proud” support for the bill at Wednesday’s hearing.

“The reality is we have just under 20 percent of the legislature as co-sponsors and it’s legislators representing a wide swath of the state,” Abundant Homes MA Executive Director Jesse Kanson-Benanav said in a phone interview Thursday morning, noting that the Joint Committee on Housing had recommended earlier versions of the bill pass last legislative session. “While [Gov. Maura Healey] doesn’t control what the legislature does she’s elevated the issue of housing production.”

Kanson-Benanav said he was hopeful that, given the level of support for AHMA’s bill, that some provisions might be included in the Healey administration’s forthcoming housing production bonding bill, expected some time this summer.

Advocates, Legislators Line Up to Back YIMBY Bill

by James Sanna time to read: 3 min