Please VOTE YES on QUESTION 2 and repeal the state law known as 40B, which allows comprehensive permits for low/moderate-income units. 40B allows developers to override local zoning bylaws and wetlands regulations if they set aside 20 – 25% of the houses as “affordable”. This takes development control away from towns and gives it to developers and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the state agency that oversees 40B projects.
Loopholes and lack of oversight have allowed developers to abuse the law for financial benefit at the expense of host towns. Inspector General (IG) Gregory Sullivan (head of the state agency to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in government) has issued over 25 letters and reports on the problems and abuses of 40B. He calls 40B “the worst financial scandal in the last 20 years”, a “pig fest”, “developer welfare”, “a major, expensive example of mismanagement in government,” and “one of the biggest abuses in state history”.
40B developers are supposed to refund excess profit to the host community, however, the IG’s office has found fraudulent expenses and hidden profits that have led to the theft of millions of dollars from towns across the Commonwealth. An IG audit of seven 40B projects found $4 to $5 million that should have been returned to the local towns. The IG estimates that state-wide, developers have defrauded towns of over $100 million – money that towns could have used to provide housing and services for people who the 40B proponents say they are supposedly helping.
The developer-backed group that wants to keep 40B wants voters to believe that issues raised by the IG have been resolved. Don’t believe it. The IG determined that the solutions recommended by DHCD are “all inadequate and in fact make the situation worse rather than better.” Current regulations still allow developers and their bankers to determine profits and the size of 40B projects, and developers are still allowed to use their own accountant for profit certifications rather than allowing the host town to choose the accountant as recommended by the IG. This is “dead wrong” according to the IG. A 12/21/2009 letter from the IG states that regulatory reforms proposed by DHCD “legalize the excess profit-taking my Office has previously identified and strips municipalities of the rights necessary to protect their interest.”
DHCD has a record of deciding in favor of developers 80% of the time, and have made regulations worse. Heavy lobbying from special interest groups have prevented the legislature from acting on any of the 66 bills (in the last session) designed to reform 40B. None of the candidates for governor have the courage to stand up to the pro-development lobby. Therefore, it is up to the people to take matters into their own hands and do what the state government should have done a long time ago – VOTE YES on Question 2 and repeal 40B so it can be replaced by a new law that puts people over profits.