Promoting Smart Growth & Regional Planning
We all need a home. Young professionals, families with kids, empty nesters, seniors, workers, people with disabilities, people struggling to make ends meet – all of us need somewhere to live.
Making sure that Greater Boston has enough of those places to live for all kinds of people and for all income levels is a core part of MAPC’s work. So is making sure that those places to live are safe, sustainable, healthful, and convenient to work and transportation. Those things matter – not just to the people looking to settle down, but for the region’s equity, public health, economy, and environment.
MAPC collects, interprets, and shares housing data. We advocate at the state level for legislation to help promote our housing goals, and work with municipalities to create planning documents, local masterplans, and model bylaws. We support regional collaboration by helping communities work together to advance their goals.
- Demographics and Housing Demand Projections
- MA Land Parcel Database
- MA Housing Data Portal
learn more about our work
Learn more about the services we provide municipalities, including Housing Production Plans, housing data, zoning, and community outreach and engagement.
Read our Regional Housing Production Plan, learn about the Regional Housing Services Offices, and other work MAPC does to help municipalities collaborate.
Toolkits, Reports, and Resources:
Browse through MAPC’s past reports, assessments, and toolkits.
Each legislative session, MAPC develops a list of legislative priorities for the agency, including many related to housing. Go to our Legislative Priorities page to learn more.
Our work areas include collaborating on Housing Production Plans, producing residential market analyses, creating mixed-income neighborhood and TOD plans, gathering, interpreting, and sharing housing data, drafting zoning bylaws and ordinances, lobbying for statutory change at the state level, and assisting with community outreach and engagement.
Housing Production Plans
MAPC has worked with dozens of communities to develop Housing Production Plans (HPPs). HPPs help localities meet their housing needs, meet state requirements under M.G.L. Chapter 40B, and proactively influence many aspects of development, including location, type, size, and design.
MAPC works with municipalities to develop a comprehensive needs and demand assessment, organize public forums, engage with community members, identify areas and sites for housing production and those for preservation, determine development constraints and barriers, and develop housing goals and implementation strategies.
MAPC’s Housing Division works with the Data Services team to compile and understand local and regional housing data and projections. Our work includes creating specific needs and demand assessments based on housing and demographic information.
Our teams have created several open-access tools and datasets that municipalities, departments, individuals and others, can use to assess housing and demographic information about their communities. These include:
A definitive inventory of past, present, and projected real estate development in Metro Boston and across Massachusetts. This fully-interactive website allows users to search, filter, summarize, and download information about over 3,500 residential and commercial development projects in the region. Available attributes about each project include housing units and commercial square footage, status, year of completion, parking availability, proximity to transit, WalkScore™, and other information.
To help the region and its communities plan for the future, MAPC prepares and updates projections of population change, household growth, and housing demand for Metro Boston. Projections are available for individual municipalities and the region as a whole.
The Massachusetts Land Parcel Database is a statewide atlas of more than 2.1 million land parcel boundaries and associated tax assessor data. The database includes statistics about each parcel, including floor area ratio, assessed value per area, impervious surface, and other indicators.
MA Housing Data Portal The Massachusetts Housing Data Portal provides comprehensive demographic and housing data on every municipality in the Commonwealth. The site's Basic Needs Assessment generates the full suite of required content for this portion of a state-approved Housing Production Plan. Additionally, the Housing Data Profiles show hundreds of comparable housing related indicators for each municipality. These digital tools provide municipal staff and local stakeholders with relevant and actionable data on local housing need and demand. Housing.MA eases the burden and significantly reduces the cost of data collection, processing, and analysis required to develop a Housing Production Plan.
KnowPlace is a tool for creating neighborhood-level statistics for any community in Metro Boston. Unlike other sites that provide tract-by-tract data points or municipal snapshots, KnowPlace allows the user to draw their own neighborhood boundaries and access reports that aggregate information from multiple sources and data tables.
MAPC draft zoning changes and new bylaws and ordinances to help cities and towns meet housing need and demand and achieve other local goals, as well as meet various state requirements. Zoning is a critical local-level tool used to shape a municipality through requirements and incentives for land use. Zoning updates can include allowing for mixed-use development, adopting overlay districts, developing inclusionary zoning, and otherwise updating zoning bylaws or ordinances to allow and prepare for change.
Community Outreach & Engagement
Throughout any planning process, MAPC helps communities develop a comprehensive strategy for community outreach and engagement. We help plan and execute forums; develop, distribute, and analyze surveys; create focus groups and facilitate small group discussions; conduct stakeholder interviews; and use various forms of media to keep the public informed about the planning process and to solicit input.
MAPC communities with HPPs
HPPs help municipalities better understand local housing need and demand, development constraints and opportunities, and their vision for the future housing landscape. HPPs analyze how populations may change and establish policies and programs that address shifting demand. Communities can proactively influence development to guide the type, amount, and location of future housing, and signal to developers what kinds of future development is preferred. HPPs also help cities and towns meet their statutory obligations under M.G.L. Chapter 40B.
A HPP is approved by DHCD for a five-year period, and consists of:
- DATA: an assessment of housing need and demand based on current data, population and development trends, and regional growth factors
- LIMITATIONS: an analysis of physical and regulatory development constraints
- LOCATIONS: identification of specific sites for housing production
- GOALS: housing goals, including an annual numerical housing production target
- STRATEGIES: implementation strategies including tools and strategies to achieve goals
MAPC begins a HPP by analyzing local demographic and housing data and projections, and creating a comprehensive need and demand assessment, with an analysis of development constraints.
Our staff assists with community outreach throughout the planning process. Outreach often includes a community survey and small group discussions. A public forum is often held to share the findings of the need and demand assessment, identify housing opportunities and sites, and develop preliminary housing goals. Another forum may be scheduled to finalize the goals and present possible implementation strategies. Our trained community engagement team, working with our housing staff, can help plan exercises that elicit a variety of housing stories and convey information about housing need and context-sensitive development, amongst other things.
Using data and community feedback, MAPC assists cities and towns with a visioning process to determine housing goals, implementation strategies, and identify specific sites that are suitable for housing development.
MAPC presents the final HPP to the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen or City Council for local adoption, then submits it to DHCD for approval. DHCD conducts a 30-day completeness review and offers the municipality the opportunity to respond with additional information, if necessary. DHCD has 90 days to approve the HPP after determining it is complete. If the plan is not approved, DHCD will provide specific feedback and a revised HPP can be submitted at any time.
What is Chapter 40B?
Chapter 40B is a state statute that requires municipalities to increase and maintain their affordable housing inventories at 10% of their total year-round housing stock. If affordable housing in a community is under 10%, developers may petition the local Zoning Boards of Appeals (ZBA) for a permit for affordable housing developments that do not fully comply with local zoning; and the ZBA has limited grounds for refusal.
A locally-adopted and state-approved HPP can serve as a guide to influence 40B development. If a municipality adds affordable housing units at an annual rate of 0.5-1%, then the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) can certify an HPP for a one- or a two-year period, during which the ZBA may deny affordable housing proposals that are inconsistent with the HPP and don’t comply with local zoning.
Regional Housing Services Offices (RHSO)
Municipalities face common challenges associated with providing and monitoring affordable housing on a daily basis. A regional housing services office (RHSO) funded by partnering cities and towns assist with housing-related work. A RHSO is staffed by housing professionals who work with the municipalities on planning for affordable housing, monitoring, project development, and resident assistance.
In 2011, MAPC helped the towns of Acton, Bedford, Burlington, Concord, Lexington, Sudbury, and Weston form an RHSO to advance collaboration on affordable housing preservation and development. The RHSO was awarded the Kenneth Pickard Municipal Innovation Award from the Massachusetts Municipal Association in 2011. Member towns receive housing services for an annual fee, which covers staffing and administrative expenses. Resident services include eviction prevention, loan modification, fuel assistance, capital improvement, and home repair. To learn more, visit the RHSO’s website.
Subregional and Regional Reports
MAPC’s housing staff have prepared fair housing plans, affordable housing plans, and various reports for groups of municipalities and entire subregions. Looking at problems and solutions regionally allows towns and cities to coordinate by implementing common strategies and accessing federal funds.
Recent reports include:
Regional Housing Plan
In 2011, MAPC prepared a comprehensive housing needs assessment and Regional Housing Plan (RHP), which serves as a roadmap to guide housing development and policy within the region over the next two decades.
The RHP consists of a regional housing needs assessment, regional growth report, and regional housing action plan. Specifically, the RHP:
- describes the nature and extent of the region’s unmet housing need, and identifies evolving challenges based on an assessment of current market conditions, existing affordable housing, patterns of foreclosure, and combined housing and transportation costs;
- develops an inventory of existing affordable housing in the region;
- determines the suitability of existing affordable housing relative to need, opportunity areas, and transportation-efficient locations, and articulates alternatives that would better meet needs and serve people in these locations;
- analyzes the relative success of specific Housing Production Plans;
- develops specific actions, including, policy and programmatic changes at the state, regional, and local levels that will assist in meeting identified housing needs; and
- builds a constituency to advocate for these actions.
- Foreclosure Resource Guide for Municipalities: This Foreclosure Resource Guide contains resources and tools to help governments protect communities and residents from the effects of the national foreclosure problem. Read it here.
- Managing Neighborhood Change: Anti-Displacement Strategies Toolkit
This toolkit is based on a comprehensive literature review of material released over the last 10 years, best practices, and local project work. It provides a framework for understanding indicators of displacement and offers strategies to mitigate this risk and others associated with neighborhood change.
- Inclusionary Bylaws from MA Smart Growth Toolkit
- Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC)
- Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP)
- Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC)
- Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB)
- Citizens' Housing & Planning Association (CHAPA)
- United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Boston Regional Office (HUD)
- Inclusionary Bylaws from MA Smart Growth Toolkit
- Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies
- The Warren Group Town Housing Statistics
- Fair Housing and Equity Assessment for Metropolitan Boston (2014): The FHEA examines regional demographics and patterns of racial and economic segregation to understand how activities, resources, and policies at the local and regional levels impact fair access to housing opportunity, including access to affordable housing. Read it here.
- MetroWest Regional Affordable Housing Trust Report: This report identifies opportunities for the MetroWest Regional Collaborative to advance housing activities and opportunities. Regionalization of housing activities and services is a valuable approach to implementing affordable housing strategies. By assisting communities with achieving their goals to create permanently affordable homes for individuals and families with low-, moderate-, and middle-incomes, the MetroWest Regional Affordable Housing report aims to facilitate production and preservation of diverse housing options. View the report here.
- The Use of Chapter 40R in Massachusetts as a Tool for Smart Growth and Affordable Housing Production: Chapter 40R encourages cities and towns to zone for compact residential and mixed-use development in smart growth locations by offering financial incentives and increased control over design. This report examines how Massachusetts communities have used Chapter 40R since March of 2005 when the program was authorized. View the report here.
- Middle-Income Housing Demand, Local Barriers to Development, and Strategies to Address Them in Select Inner Core Communities: This report explores the housing demand of middle-income households in select Inner Core municipalities, performs a gap analysis, reviews national best practices, and makes recommendations for implementing strategies locally. Learn more here.