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Info to Action

The collection and analysis of housing needs data is key, but it is just the first step. The purpose of assessing needs is to then enable community members to take concrete steps toward meeting those needs. This section outlines important next steps and provides a strategy for putting your community’s housing needs assessment into action. It will help you build a housing plan that articulates specific local goals and activities that preserve and promote affordable housing. Here are the next steps.

Create or update a housing action plan

Who prepares: The creation (or update) and adoption of a housing action plan, Housing Production Plan, or housing part of a larger master plan involves input from a broad cross-section of community members. A plan can be prepared by housing committee members and municipal staff or by consultants, if resources are available.

What type of plan?

Housing Needs Assessment (HNA): This helps a community determine the current and forecasted affordable housing needs within the community. The assessment includes an analysis of demographic characteristics, housing supply, and affordability indicators in the community as compared with trends in the region, state, and country.

Housing Plan: In addition to identifying housing needs as in an HNA, a housing plan identifies development constraints and limitations in the community, assesses local implementation capacity, and identifies community housing goals and strategies to address housing needs.

Housing Production Plan (HPP): An HPP is similar to a housing plan, however it is also a state-recognized regulatory tool that must be prepared in accordance with state regulations and guidelines. An HPP must describe how the community plans to produce affordable units to obtain state certification of the HPP. When a community has a certified HPP, the state Housing Appeals Committee will uphold a local Zoning Board of Appeals’ denial of a Comprehensive Permit (40B) if the proposed development is not consistent with local needs.

Master Plan: In Massachusetts, under M.G.L. c. 41 s. 81D, a Master Plan is designed to provide a basis for decision-making regarding the long-term physical development of the municipality. A Master Plan must include a housing element that identifies and analyzes existing and forecasted housing needs and objectives.

Common Elements

No matter the type of plan your community undertakes, there are common elements that should be included. The plan should:

  • Address both long- and short-term goals.
  • Project the number of new housing starts, both rental and ownership, that will be needed to address local needs.
  • Identify areas of the community where housing will be developed, actions requiring zoning or other regulatory reforms, and programmatic and funding resources available at the local, state, and federal levels.

An outline for a housing action plan might look something like this:

I. Purpose of Plan (Mission Statement)

II. Identification of Participants in Plan

III. Summary of Project’s Housing Characteristics

IV. Anticipated Problems and Issues for Completing Project

V. Local Opportunities and Resources to Address These Problems

VI. Goals of the Action Plan

  1. Short-term goals (<1 year)
  2. Medium-term goals (1–5 years)
  3. Long-term goals (5–10 years)

VII. Detailed Timeline

VIII. Available Funding Sources

IX. Responsibility for Implementing Plan Components X. Key Challenges to Accomplishing Action Plan

Editor's note: Include good examples of HPPs

Establish Priorities

A critical part of moving to implementation is establishing a priority list of initiatives. This should be included in any housing plan, and is a required component of an HPP, as listed above. Considerations for each priority initiative may include types and level of housing indicated by the needs assessments, access to funding needed to address need; expertise available to lead the initiative, and the level of political support and opposition facing the initiative. Those initiatives that can be accomplished sooner, with fewer resources required and facing less opposition should be at the top of the list. For example, your community may prioritize establishing a Municipal Affordable Housing Trust to better lead housing initiatives.

Strategies for Implementation

Strategies that a community may choose to implement can include but are not limited to:

  • Forming or re-engaging a local housing partnership, housing committee, or Municipal Affordable Housing Trust
  • Providing community education on the issues through forums, workshops, media coverage, and printed materials targeted for local residents
  • Supporting proposed affordable housing developments
  • Conducting an inventory of town land potentially suitable for affordable housing placement
  • Issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for the transfer of property to the local housing authority or for sale or transfer to another development entity to create affordable housing
  • Proposing zoning changes to make it easier to develop housing according to the goals of the community
  • Adopting a means of generating revenue for affordable housing, such as the Community Preservation Act or other fees or payments
  • Creating a program to support first-time homebuyers in your community

In addition, the community assistance team at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership can offer guidelines regarding action steps, useful community activities, and valuable resources.