Affordable Access

Guarding the Town Walls: Mechanisms and Motives for Restricting Multifamily Housing in Massachusetts

  • Law
  • Political Science


Local governments frequently restrict multifamily housing through a variety of zoning tools, which may reduce the ability of low-income households to afford housing in desirable locations. In this article, I use a new and unusually rich data set on zoning in Massachusetts to test several hypotheses about why municipalities restrict multifamily housing. Under regulations adopted in the 1940s and 1950s, communities with more existing multifamily housing or governed by a city council zoned more leniently for multifamily housing. Beginning in the 1970s, the use of special permits increased and smaller, more affluent communities were more restrictive. Copyright 2008 American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association

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