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Citizens' Housing and Planning Association: State Legislative Priorities

State Legislative Priorities

CHAPA 2013-2014 Legislative Priorities

This package of legislation aims to address challenges that impede working families, persons with disabilities, seniors, and low income households from affording the high cost of owning or renting a home in Massachusetts. If enacted, these proposals will reduce homelessness and housing instability; help persons with disabilities afford accessible housing, create jobs, and increase efficiency.

An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Kevin Honan and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, H.1127

Affordable housing production and preservation creates housing opportunities necessary for households to be productive, healthy, and successful and directly stimulates the economy. The housing bond bill would recapitalize DHCD bond-funded programs, which are critical for the production and preservation of affordable housing in the Commonwealth. The bill also adds funding for mixed-use development to the Commercial Area Transit Node Housing Program and creates a program to build and improve facilities for early childhood education and out-of-school time programs. The bill would invest more than $1.4 billion in public housing modernization, housing options to help disabled residents remain in their homes and communities, neighborhood stabilization, housing units in commercial areas served by public transit, and housing opportunities for residents across the Commonwealth. The bill would also extend the Massachusetts Low Income Housing Tax Credit at $20 million per year for two years.

An Act Promoting the Planning and Development of Sustainable Communities

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Stephen Kulik and Sen. Daniel Wolf, H. 1859

Updating Massachusetts land use laws is vital to meeting the state’s need for workforce housing, reduced commutes, and the preservation of farmland and forests. This bill provides benefits to all municipalities through statewide reforms and offers enhanced incentives and tools to communities that choose to opt in by changing select local regulations in order to meet economic development, housing, and natural resource protection goals. These reforms will equip cities and towns with the tools they need to shape their futures while providing more certainty to landowners and developers.

An Act Relative to Public Housing Innovations Pilots

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and Sen. Harriette Chandler, H. 1146, S. 592

In difficult budget times, it is important to maximize efficiency and innovation in government. This legislation would create a pilot program for 10 housing authorities to implement innovative management and rehabilitation programs in state public housing. The legislation would authorize innovative program design on a variety of issues such as energy contract procurement, use of surplus housing authority real estate, administrative reporting, public/private partnerships, and rent calculation. Authorities implementing innovative programs could apply for streamlined and reduced regulatory and statutory requirements to overcome red tape that blocks innovation. The pilot would also allow these authorities to maximize the efficient use of funds received by the authority. By not restricting the use of funds to one narrow purpose, housing authorities would be able to address local needs which differ by locality.

An Act Relative to Affordable Housing Energy Efficiency

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Kevin Honan and Sen. Sal DiDomenico, H. 1122, S. 1574

Making affordable housing energy efficient helps tenants, affordable housing owners, and the environment. There is a significant cost to constructing or rehabilitating affordable housing to ensure that the buildings minimize energy use. However, if the up-front capital investment can be absorbed, the energy savings are significant and can reduce the rent necessary to maintain the property and the impact on the environment. This legislation redirects funding to provide grants and loans as up-front capital investments that make affordable housing developments more energy efficient.

An Act Promoting Local Housing Initiatives for Economically Diverse Households

Lead Sponsor: Rep. Carl Sciortino, H. 1153

Excessive local barriers to multifamily housing have made many communities off limits to working families, seniors, and persons with disabilities with modest income. This proposal promotes local land use policies that create housing for a range of incomes. Under the bill, cities and towns may establish large lot zoning but must address exclusion of families, persons with disabilities and seniors with limited incomes by designating places to develop homes on smaller parcels or in multifamily settings.

An Act Relative to Preventing Discriminatory Land Use and Permitting Decisions

Lead Sponsor: Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, S. 929

This bill provides that it will be an unlawful discriminatory practice for government entities to reject affordable housing developments simply on the basis that the developments will include households with lower incomes as residents. This type of socio-economic discrimination is fundamentally unfair and has led to a shortage of affordable housing in Massachusetts. Because this is an issue of equity, the Commonwealth’s civil rights statute is an appropriate place to ensure protection for those in need of affordable housing. The legislation makes it clear that government entities are entitled to make land use decisions based on any bona fide government interest. The proposal is modeled on the North Carolina civil rights statute.

An Act Extending the Brownfields Tax Credit

Lead Sponsors: Rep. Antonio Cabral and Senator Barry Finegold, H. 2515

This bill extends the brownfields tax credit through 2018. The credit is currently scheduled to expire on August 5, 2013. The tax credit is an important tool used to remediate contaminated property owned or leased for business purposes in an economically distressed area.

 

For more information, please contact Rachel Heller, Director of Public Policy, at (617) 742-0820 or rheller@chapa.org