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Boston slowly making changes to increase housing units

State and local agencies in Massachusetts tend to be resistant to any changes in zoning, or just about any other issue in real estate. Occasionally however, local governments can be open to new ideas about land development, with some good results for property owners and business.

For almost 18 months, Boston has been conducting an experiment with zoning changes that makes it easier for some homeowners to rent out spare rooms in their houses. A pilot project instituted zoning changes that allow homeowners in East Boston, Jamaica Plain and Mattapan to rent out their basements or attics, known as additional dwelling units, or ADUs.

The program included interest-free loans of as much as $30,000 to homeowners, to give them the resources they need to get their spare rooms ready to be rented out. The new units must be built within the existing footprint of a house, must include a separate bathroom and kitchen, and follow other coding requirements and restrictions. The property owners must continue living in the other part of the home in order for their homes to be eligible for the program.

According to proponents, the goal of the program is to increase the number of housing units in the crowded city and to give homeowners a way to stay in their neighborhoods as property taxes and home prices continue to rise. According to news reports, the program has received a mixed response, but city planners are excited about the possibilities. The city is currently considering expanding the program to other neighborhoods.

Because real estate development can be so tricky in Massachusetts, it's important to have help from a real estate attorney with experience in the area. A lawyer with experience in state law and local zoning issues can help owners, buyers, developers and other clients navigate their way through the bureaucracy and political obstacles so that they can make better use of their land.

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