After Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2010 effort to repeal the state’s affordable housing law, the Legislature should have gotten the message. The law may still be unpopular in some tonier suburbs, but the repeal campaign failed by 16 percentage points. The majority of voters recognized that the law provides a last-ditch mechanism to ensure that affordable housing can be built across the Commonwealth, including in towns that do everything in their power to keep out newcomers. Now, however, a trio of state lawmakers is trying to chip away at the law with provisions that would dilute its effectiveness. The Legislature should respect the will of voters — and the economic needs of the state — and reject these efforts to weaken the law.
The legislators — state Senator Michael F. Rush of West Roxbury, state Representative John H. Rogers of Norwood, and state Senator Brian A. Joyce of Milton — inserted language into a housing bond bill making its way through the Legislature that would whittle down the housing law, known as Chapter 40b. Joyce’s provision would have a limited impact; it changes the rules so that a specific development in his district would be counted as affordable, thus potentially reducing Milton’s exposure to future affordable-housing developments. The amendments backed by Rogers and Rush, however, could have a much greater impact, giving municipalities across the entire state a powerful new way to thwart the law.