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Testifying on the Inventory Crisis

by Paul Yorkis | Jul 01, 2017
One of the most important responsibilities of any Massachusetts Association of Realtors® president is to serve as the association spokesperson. This means communicating our views and positions on various issues impacting the real estate market and homeowners. On May 2, I had the opportunity to testify before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government regarding our H.O.M.E. Bill H.1112 (An Act improving housing opportunities and the Massachusetts economy) and the critical need for removing barriers to housing production to help solve our current inventory crisis. I thought you would be interested in reading the testimony that I presented on behalf of our association.
[Testimony as delivered]

Good Afternoon. I am Paul Yorkis, the 2017 president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors® and the owner of Patriot Real Estate in Medway.

The inventory of homes for sale in Massachusetts continues to shrink. There were 11,892 homes listed for sale statewide at the end of March, representing only 2.4 months’ supply. A balanced market would be closer to six-to-seven months’ supply. This
shortage of housing inventory is the principal reason why home prices have been outpacing people’s income growth for the past five years. Such disparity hurts affordability and is unsustainable over the long haul.

The only way to lessen home price growth is to bring in more supply. It cannot be a simple case of existing homeowners listing their home. The only way to bring additional
supply is drastically increase housing production in Massachusetts. Our H.O.M.E. Bill seeks to aid housing production through a few targeted changes in the zoning laws.

One key issue that our members identified as an easy fix to helping with the state’s housing crunch is to allow the construction of accessory dwelling units by right. ADUs provide units that can be integrated into existing single-family neighborhoods to provide low-priced housing alternatives that have little or no negative impact on the character
of the neighborhood. Current state law does not require that zoning ordinances and bylaws permit accessory dwelling units in residential zoning districts whether by right or
with a special permit. 

These sections promote affordable in-fill housing by requiring that accessory dwelling units be permitted by right in all single-family residential zoning districts. It also prohibits zoning ordinances and bylaws from unreasonably regulating the location, dimensions, or design of an accessory dwelling unit on a lot.

Multi-family development is important as a means to provide workforce and middle-class housing in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, in the absence of a requirement to do so, few cities and towns permit multifamily development by right in any zoning district. Our bill would revise the zoning law to require that zoning ordinances and bylaws permit multifamily development by right in one or more zoning districts that, by virtue of its infrastructure, transportation access, existing underused facilities, or location, is suitable for multi-family residential development.

By allowing multi-family development by right, Massachusetts will take a big step towards producing much needed housing. 

One of the most costly barriers to housing production and economic development in the areas of Massachusetts not served by public sewer and wastewater treatment systems is the patchwork of local Title V (five) regulations. These regulations are often more restrictive than state law and may have no scientific basis.

This legislation seeks to restore greater uniformity across Massachusetts by partnering local communities with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and would establish a DEP review and approval process of local sewage disposal systems regulations to ensure they are scientifically-based restrictions, necessary to protect
unusual local resources, and do not conflict with Title V. This would ensure that septic regulations are not used by communities to stop housing construction. Thank you.