Press Releases

January 26, 2006
Contact: April Anderson, 617.723.2277

Pioneer Institute Unveils Policy Recommendations to Repair MA Housing Market

BOSTON -In response to findings in its recent joint study with Harvard's Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston that local zoning practices and other land-use restrictions have prevented the market from meeting demand for housing, Pioneer Institute released policy recommendations on January 31, 2006 at a State House forum hosted by four Joint Legislative Committees.

The recent study co-authored by Edward L. Glaeser, a world-renowned professor of economics at Harvard University, confirmed that Massachusetts' high housing prices are the product of restrictive local land-use regulations, not a shortage of land. The report provides nuanced analyses of zoning and other regulatory impediments to housing in such a way that can inform reasonable policy solutions.

Glaeser and his co-authors note that individual communities have every incentive to impede new construction. In turn, the reduction in supply has negative impacts on those who have yet to buy, those who reside in communities with fewer restrictions, and the overall economic prosperity of the region. Glaeser concludes that overcoming the local regulations and legal uncertainties that stymie new construction would require aggressive statewide action.

"Increasing our housing stock is crucial to the economic success of the region," said Senator Brian A. Joyce (D-Milton), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing. "The results of the Pioneer/Rappaport study provided us important insight into the obstacles faced by housing developers and I commend the Pioneer Institute for tackling this important issue and offering up potential solutions."

"We as a commonwealth must plan for and accommodate housing growth that makes sense across every city and town. The high cost of housing has created communities that are keeping moderate income families and our workforce from attaining the dream of owning a modest home," said Representative Kevin G. Honan (D-Allston/Brighton), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing.

"Study upon study has speculated that two-acre zoning and the maze of regulations have a negative impact on housing production. Now we've moved past anecdote-and the level of impact is well beyond what most people had thought," said James Stergios, Executive Director of the Pioneer Institute. "The regulatory obstacles are especially onerous for higher-density and smart growth projects. We are losing environmentally and we are losing our competitive edge. We need a different approach if we want to maintain our quality of life."

Using Glaeser's framework as guidance, Pioneer Institute has crafted policy recommendations to remedy the housing crisis in Massachusetts. The recommendations include (1) exemptions from Chapter 40A (the state's Zoning Enabling Act that grants municipalities authority to zone land uses) for conservation subdivisions, accessory apartments and mixed used transit oriented development, (2) bolstering incentives to municipalities to allow more housing development, (3) making local environmental regulations more transparent, consistent and rational, and (4) steps to prevent frivolous appeals.

Pioneer Institute and Rappaport Institute recently also released a database of zoning codes, subdivision requirements, and environmental regulations that govern land use in the 187 communities within 50 miles of Boston. "When you view the database and start to compare the complexity of regulations across communities, it's evident how variable and highly unpredictable the system can be," said David Luberoff, Executive Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. Both the study and database are available online at our web site.

For more information on the Pioneer Institute, please visit our web site. or call 617-723-2277.