Housing Advisory: Supreme Judicial Court Issues Two Decisions about When Towns Can Litigate Their Compliance with Chapter 40B's Thresholds

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On May 27, 2008, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued two decisions, both involving a town’s desire to receive a ruling from the courts as to whether the town had met Chapter 40B’s statutory threshold of 10% of overall municipal housing stock qualifying as subsidized housing. When a town has met the 10% threshold, it is free to deny a Chapter 40B comprehensive permit application, and will not be overturned on appeal. In each of these recent decisions, Hingham v. Department of Housing and Community Development and Wrentham v. West Wrentham Village, the SJC held that the towns were not entitled to a judicial ruling on the 10% question because neither town had met the prerequisite of first exhausting its administrative remedies at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) by getting a final ruling from the agency’s adjudicative body, the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC), on the question.

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