State agency owed substantial deference when it exercises its legitimate authority to override local zoning law to enable construction of affordable housing

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Statute, colloquially known as the Anti-Snob Zoning Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40B, §§20-23, enables developers to file a single comprehensive permit before the local zoning appeals board to construct affordable housing. Municipalities in which less than 10 percent of the housing stock is affordable face a heavy burden of proof to overcome the statutory preference for such housing. The statute delegates authority to a state agency, called the Housing Appeals Committee, that enables it to override local permit denials when necessary to allow affordable housing to be constructed. In Eisai, Inc. v. Housing Appeals Committee, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 604 (2016), the court affirmed the substantial deference owed to the state agency when it exercises its powers ordering a municipality to issue a comprehensive development permit for affordable housing. Local concerns that include protection of health or safety of occupants or residents of the municipality cannot override the need for affordable housing in towns under the ten percent threshold unless those needs are sufficiently strong to override the presumption that affordable housing needs trump such concerns.