News & Resources

Boston Globe’s 1-2 Zoning Punch

Appropriately for MLK weekend, two Boston Globe columnists independently picked up the zoning reform banner to point out the common roots of our housing crisis and Massachusetts’ deep segregation.

In today’s paper, Renée Loth says, “A comprehensive bill making its way through the State House would do more to ease the affordable housing crisis — and repair the state’s longstanding economic and racial disparities — than you might imagine.”

That bill is our bill–House 2420/Senate 81. And you can sign our online petition here.

The zoning reform bill sets new statewide standards allowing for multifamily housing, accessory dwelling units, cluster zoning to preserve open space, and other “smart growth” initiatives. It eases the current statewide requirement of a super-majority vote to change local zoning or to grant special permits. It helps smaller communities plan better through grants and training. And, importantly, it explicitly outlaws “exclusionary land use practices” that discriminate against racial or economic minorities, families, and other protected classes. “It’s not only about affordability,” says André Leroux, director of the Smart Growth Alliance. “It’s also about inclusion, and being able to live with diversity.” He describes the state’s segregated community patterns as “a monoculture.” 

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Dante Ramos discusses an ambitious effort in California to combat zoning problems like ours head on and unlock development near transit stations:

Zoning has an ugly history. In a startling book entitled “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,” author Richard Rothstein details the thousands of steps that federal, state, and local officials took over decades to keep African-Americans from moving into white areas. When courts invalidated explicit racial zoning, cities and towns from coast to coast imposed codes that restricted the construction of multifamily housing — a more legally defensible way to keep supposed undesirables out.

This year, we can take real steps in Massachusetts to correct these injustices, but we need you to let us know that you support the Great Neighborhoods campaign. If you do, we’ll keep you posted about when and how to weigh in with state leaders.

Read the full articles:

Zoning reform offers a path to economic equality and social integration” by Renée Loth, Boston Globe, 1/16/2018.

Go on, California–blow up your lousy zoning laws” by Dante Ramos, Boston Globe, 1/14/2018.

I encourage you to engage in the conversation in the comment sections, and to forward this important message to friends and families who might be interested. We need our allies to stand up and make themselves known today.

Find talking points, infographics for social media, and much more here at our Take Action Center. Thank you!

André Leroux is executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance.

For more information: