In many regulated affordable housing developments, there are options for setting aside units for those with a Local Preference. The exact percentage and the precise definition for this Local Preference, or any other preferences, vary by project and are regulated within a specific affordable housing program. The local preference set-aside was created to allow communities to provide opportunities for their own, as a benefit for increasing affordable housing, though the details often vary between projects and programs.
The 40B units permitted in Sudbury are often regulated by MassHousing under the Housing Starts Program and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) under the Local Initiative Program, using the regulations promulgated at 760 CMR 56 and Comprehensive Permit Guidelines published by DHCD. This guidance (which is the subject of this information), allows the Local Preference option of 70% of the units in a project (rounded down) to be set aside for local preference applicants, with all applicants eligible for the other 30%. [Note that 40B is a permitting mechanism for projects across many programs. There are 40B projects in Sudbury, for example the Sudbury Housing Authority Duplex Project or the Coolidges at Sudbury Project, that used 40B for permitting but are regulated by other programs which have different Local Preference criteria.]
The current allowable local preference categories under the DHCD guidelines include:
- Current residents: A household in which one or more members is living in the city or town at the time of application
- Municipal Employees: Employees of the municipality, such as teachers, janitors, firefighters, police officers, librarians, or town hall employees.
- Employees of Local Businesses: Employees of businesses located in the municipality.
- Households with children attending the locality’s schools, such as METCO students.
DHCD updates these categories periodically. In 2006, the METCO preference was added, and in 2008, the preference for ‘Family of current resident’ was removed.
Sudbury has generally not included ‘Employees of Local Businesses’ in its definition of Local Preference. The Community Housing Committee voted to not include this category in 2006, and the Sudbury Housing Trust also voted not to include this category in 2008 — which was ratified by the Board of Selectmen in June 2008. The Sudbury municipal employee category in most 40B projects also includes employees of the Sudbury Water District, Linclon Sudbury Regional High School and employees of the Sudbury Housing Authority.
Adding a preference for military veterans has also been discussed for the Sudbury Local Preference categories. In December, 2007 the Sudbury Veteran’s Agent requested that non-Sudbury veterans with a Campaign Medal – war time service in a combat zone, or veterans with a 30% permanent disability or greater – be eligible for the Local Preference pool. The Sudbury Housing Trust unanimously endorsed a veteran’s preference and voted to recommend as such to the Selectmen, with approval from DHCD. During these discussions, other ideas surfaced including allowing some percentage of local lottery slots to veterans who are MA residents without Sudbury connections, or allow veterans into the local preference lottery based on distance from Sudbury, or some other kind of strategy.
Initial discussions with the DCHD’s Fair Housing attorneys indicated that they might consider such an addition to local preference categories if documented and shown a demonstrated need, though they knew of no other city or town that includes non-local veterans (those with no ties to the municipality) in the local pool. In the absence of detailed submitted justification, DHCD thought that the group defined as “veterans with a 30% permanent disability or greater” was problematic and not permissible under fair housing laws, because there should generally not be a difference in preference for particular classes or levels of disability. Similar on the campaign medal question, as it seemed irrelevant to need.
If a community wishes to implement a local selection preference — even the allowable categories- it must:
- Demonstrate in the Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan prepared for a specific project the need for the local preference (e.g., the community may have a disproportionately low rental or ownership affordable housing stock relative to need in comparison to the regional area); and
- Demonstrate that the proposed local preference will not have a disparate impact on protected classes.
In summary, providing non-local veterans local preference might be approved by DHCD for a specific project as described in an Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan so long as justifiable need for the housing preference is demonstrated, as with all local preference categories. The town would need to demonstrate the greater need for affordable housing of defined veterans compared to other local groups. To date, no specific justification has been provided, and there have been no further discussions.
All groups involved have an appreciation for the service veterans have given and have shown interest in exploring an approved preference category.