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Rampant Misuse of Low Income Housing law in Massachusetts
Critiqued by 40B Massachusetts Coalition leader
Added to website July 7, 2006

John Belskis is the astute director of the Coalition to Reform 40B. The Uplands Alternative Group along with some members of the Belmont ConCom met with him last week to talk about 40B. The videotaped conversation lasted 2 1/2 hours, and we heard some eye-opening information--about the trickery and dishonesty of many 40B developers. The developers take advantage of the 40B designation to push forward developments that would be unacceptable otherwise. As you know, a ZBA must balance the negative impacts to a town when coming to a decision about a 40B project. See the attached letter about the Inspector General's investigation of dishonest 40B developers that make huge profits at the expense of the town.

We propose that you meet with John so that you can provide the ZBA with the tools to oppose the 40B project. The project, I'm sure you know, is inappropriately located in a floodplain. In addition to destroying a unique urban forest, there are several significant reasons to turn down the proposed development, such as flooding, sewers and wastewater, and public safety, and we will be documenting those and forwarding the report to you.

Thank you, Barbara
Barbara Passero
Uplands Alternative Group (617) 484-6961

"Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it is lent to you by your children." Kenyan Proverb

The text below is from John Belskis

Mr Whalen editor of the Bankers and Tradesman publication asked that I enlarge upon my comment to him regarding the June 12th article that quoted many of our 40B advocate's position on the issue of local Housing Authorities participating as monitors and lottery control for local 40B projects. Below is the Letter to the Editor that I anticipate he will publish.

Local Housing Authority Participation In The 40B Process

The Bankers & Tradesman June 12th article regarding opposition to the local Housing Authority as participants in 40B activities, appears to have generated more than its share of comment by known supporters and proponents of this controversial law.

Long before M.G.L. 40B, Massachusetts General Law 121B established the Local Housing Authorities as the overseers of a town’s affordable housing. Unfortunately, as happens all too often, it became another of our under funded mandates. Another quirk with the enactment of 40B thirty seven years ago was the omission of these Authorities as active principles and participants in the process.

Recently local Housing Authority Boards have sought to become monitoring agents and lottery managers for 40B projects occurring in their towns. In addition to being sensitive to town concerns and best interests, they would also be eligible to receive the fees involved in that process. For some reason, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) issued a Memorandum which among other things, denied to a great degree, that opportunity to the local authorities. The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Redevelopment and Housing Authority Organizations (MassNAHRO) responded that local Boards with training from their organization were more than capable of fulfilling the required duties.

Of interest, is that your article with all the presented arguments for excluding the local Housing Authority was published just as the State Inspector General’s office began releasing details of their 40B audit regarding excessive profits. Of significance is the uniform position of your article’s contributors which keyed on the lack of expertise in the local entities in comparison to their organization’s abilities. If the level of expertise and due diligence of the required activities shown in the IG’s report is an example of their standards necessary to the performance of the required duties, I don’t think the local Authority would be lacking.

In light of what has been exposed in the State Inspector General's report on 40B profit levels. It appears that the agencies and organizations responsible for the administration, funding, authorizing and monitoring of 40B projects have, to the detriment of the towns involved, been less than appropriate and lack due diligence. As a result significant funds that could have been available to support local housing initiatives may have been defaulted to the involved developers.

No finer example of your contributor’s disingenuous positions was the example cited by Mr. Gleason of the need for knowledge and uniformity and his statement “But I think it’s very important that everyone play by the same set of rules. It should be transparent to the builder of the affordable housing what monitoring is being done. They need to know if they build in Acton or Boxboro or Framingham that the same rules are going to apply no matter where they are. And that’s what we’re striving for,” he said.”

Evidently Mr. Gleason’s goals have been attained, as the IG’s report citing excessive profit overruns involved the same developer that was found guilty in Boxborough’s case for $1.2 million of excessive profits, was found again in the IG’s audit, for excessive profits in his Acton 40B project. If this is the desired uniformity then they have succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Perhaps it was this success that brought the smile to his face in the photo accompanying the article.

I and member organizations in our Coalition for the Reform of 40B have long questioned how well the developers using 40B are monitored and evaluated based on their performance and adherence to the standards inherent in the comprehensive permit process involved. Despite the position of your article’s contributors that local involvement is undesirable and unwarranted. It raises the question as to whose interests are being protected, when those with the most to gain are strongly opposed to local participation. I think it’s time for a review of how well these involved agencies are protecting the interests of our local towns from predatory and greedy developers that continue to use 40B as a weapon rather than a tool to foster affordable housing development.

Yes we need more affordable Housing but at what cost? The abuses and predatory tactics of all too many of the developers involved is rapidly establishing a reputation for abuse and greed that is increasingly becoming suspect of being a developer’s welfare program hiding under the mantle of providing for the needs of the disadvantaged. Its time to remove the sheep’s clothing from the wolves of this industry and ensures that the responsible support agencies aren’t the proverbial foxes guarding the hen house.

John Belskis – Chairman Coalition For The Reform Of 40B

196 Wollaston Avenue Arlington, MA 02476