What is Chapter 40B?

FAQ's and Data about the Comprehensive Permit Act and How It Impacts Westminster

1. What is Chapter 40B?

G.L. c. 40B, §§ 20-23 – known as Chapter 40B or the Comprehensive Permit Law – is a state law that was enacted in 1969 to facilitate construction of low- or moderate-income housing. It establishes a consolidated local review and approval process (known as a “comprehensive permit”) that empowers the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in each city and town to review housing projects that meet certain affordable housing requirements and densities. 

Under this statute, the local Zoning Boards of Appeals can approve affordable housing developments where 20-25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions. The remaining housing units in these developments are market rate.

Additionally, the statute mandates that 10% of the Town’s entire housing stock must be “affordable” as designated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Subsidized Housing Inventory, managed by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Community (EOHLC), is used to measure a community's affordable housing stock. 

Recognition of the Ch. 40B regulations and requirements has been recognized in both the 2014 Westminster Master Plan (Housing Chapter) and the 2018 Westminster Housing Production Plan. (linked below)

2. What is Affordable Housing? How does it relate to Chapter 40B?

Affordable housing refers to units that are on the Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) list and are certified by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. Affordable housing are units that fall into certain income ranges set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While housing developed under Chapter 40B is eligible for inclusion on the inventory, many other types of housing also qualify to count toward a community's affordable housing stock as well.

**Community members should note that affordable housing does not equate to Section 8 housing as Section 8 refers to the federal housing voucher program.**

3. When is the Subsidized Housing Inventory updated?

The SHI list and the Town’s housing stock is updated at every census which may cause the Town’s affordable housing stock to decrease/increase as more housing units are added. Westminster's SHI can be viewed here.  More information specific to rental thresholds can be found from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership's Rent Limits 2024 (PDF)

4. How Much Affordable Housing Does Westminster Have? 

According to the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, the Town of Westminster's Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) was at 2.74% as of June 2023. 

5. What Process Does Chapter 40B Developments Need to Follow?

A 40B applicant must first receive a letter of project eligibility from one of four subsidizing agencies: MassHousing, MassDevelopment, the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Cities (EOHLC), or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If a project eligibility letter is received, the applicant can apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for comprehensive permit review. The Zoning Board of Appeals will then review and vote on the proposed project to decide if it is approved or not. 

6. What Happens When a Town Isn't Compliant with the State’s Requirement of 10% SHI?

If a community is below 10% SHI, a developer can apply for a Chapter 40B permit called a comprehensive permit for a housing development at any site in Town. A comprehensive permit is allowed by the State to override local zoning bylaws. 

7. What Happens When the Town Reaches the State’s Requirement of 10% SHI?

Once the Town of Westminster has reached the 10% threshold in Subsidized Housing Inventory, the local Zoning Board of Appeals will have more discretion to approve or deny a comprehensive permit application, or Chapter 40B project. The Town can also choose to pursue more affordable housing to go beyond 10%. 

8. What is a Local Initiative Program (LIP) or "friendly" Chapter 40B project?

The Local Initiative Program (LIP) promotes cooperation between the municipality and the developer, and assists in reaching a mutually beneficial project between the two entities.  In a "friendly" 40B development, the developer works cooperatively with town boards regarding density, setbacks, or blend architectural aesthetics with the neighborhood.  If the town and developer cannot work cooperatively, the developer can pursue relief through the state and by-pass local zoning. These types of developments tend to be very dense, out of character, and can be very inconsistent with the design and character of the community.

9. Are there any Current Chapter 40B Projects Proposed in Westminster?

The Westminster Zoning Board of Appeals has not received any applications for Comprehensive Permits at this time.  However there are two (2) current projects before the Town, in the following phases:

  • Summit Estates on Sargent Road/fmr. McNally's location:  Local Initiative Program (LIP) [aka "friendly" 40B] This developer has received their Project Eligibility Letter (PEL) from MassHousing Partnership.  This allows the developer up to twenty four (24) months to apply for a Comprehensive Permit from the Westminster ZBA.
  • JEKN, LLC on Adams Street: Local Initiative Program (LIP) [aka "friendly" 40B] This developer met with the Select Board on June 3, 2024 and the next step will be for JEKN, LLC to apply for a Project Eligibility Letter (PEL), at which time there will be a thirty (30) day public comment period for Town officials and residents to make their opinions known at the State level while the project being reviewed.
  • Commonwealth Community Developers (CCD) at Westminster Senior Residences: Although not a Ch. 40B Development, the fifty (50) units being constructed behind the Senior Center will all count toward Westminster's SHI because of their affordability restrictions.  This project is made possible due to funding from the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Cities (EOHLC) and other state and federal grant funds.

Additonal Information and Helpful Resources: