Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Affordable Housing Program

For close to 20 years MOPC has administered a mediation program for the Housing Appeals Committee of the MA Dept of Housing and Community Development to resolve affordable housing development disputes arising under the state’s comprehensive permit law (G.L. Ch. 40B). The program is uniquely designed as a multi-party forum for developers, municipal officials, and interested citizens to exchange information and create new options for the settlement of disputes. Mediation often results in creative solutions allowing developments to proceed with important modifications, resulting in more affordable housing for the state and obviating the need for a hearing.

MOPC attends the initial attorneys’ meeting with the hearing officer in order to present the mediation option to the parties and explain how the process works. The program has a roster of skilled mediators who have backgrounds in environmental law, land use and construction, municipal law and public policy issues and extensive professional experience working with municipalities and developers in complex multiparty disputes.

The mediation process allows for the participation of other interested parties, such as abutters, who would not have standing to participate in HAC proceedings but provide invaluable support in the community necessary to de-escalate the conflict and prevent future problems or litigation. Mediation’s advantages in these emotionally-charged conflicts are that the parties mutually resolve their issues in durable agreements generally obtained in less time and at lower cost than a full appeal hearing. The success of this program is its ability to bring parties together with skilled mediators, in a neutral forum, to find innovative answers that might not come out in a formal hearing process.

Mediation through this program is free of charge to the parties for the first eight hours. Thereafter the parties share fees for the mediator’s time at the rate of $200 per hour for cases with two or three parties and $300 per hour for cases with four or more parties. This program also handles mediation referrals of land use disputes at the municipal level and in the Land and Superior Courts.

Examples of MOPC’s Work:

Chestnut Hill, Newton - mediated agreement among developer, city and abutters regarding affordable housing condominium development on highly-traveled Route 9

Wompanoag Tribal Housing Authority, Gay Head – agreement regarding issuance of comprehensive permit enabled through mediated assistance in dealing with jurisdictional issues apart from permitting issues