House Begins Debate on its Economic Development Bill

Today, July 27, the Massachusetts House of Representatives is debating its Economic Development Bill, H.4879An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth.

The bill contains important provisions that are critical to creating and preserving affordable housing in Massachusetts, supporting our economy, and addressing inequities in housing. These provisions include:

  • Housing Choice sections to help cities and towns approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by lowering the required vote from a two-thirds to a simple majority;
  • Temporarily expanding the Massachusetts Low-Income Housing Tax Credit from $20 million to $40 million to spur the development and preservation of affordable housing and create jobs; 
  • Requiring pre-mediation for COVID related evictions and also requiring tenants to be notified of their rights in an eviction case;
  • $50 million for creation of low- and moderate-income housing in close proximity to transit nodes;
  • $40M for Neighborhood Stabilization to return blighted or vacant units back to productive use, including in communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19;
  • $10M for Climate-Resilient Affordable Housing Production of affordable, multi-family housing developments, with the goals of equipping homes to better respond to climate changes and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through use of efficient, sustainable design practices; and
  • Expansion of the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) by raising the annual cap from $10M to $30M to support more market rate housing development projects in Gateway Cities.

CHAPA thanks Speaker DeLeo, House Ways and Means Chair, Chairman Michlewitz, House Committee Chair Rep. Honan, the House leadership Committee members in recognizing the role of housing in economic development and supporting this bill. We particularly thank the House for including the Housing Choice provisions and hope that they will remain unchanged in the final bill passed by the House. 

In order to further strengthen the bill for affordable housing and tenant protections, CHAPA supports the following amendments to H.4789:

Amendment 82 - Right to Counsel in Eviction Cases 
Sponsored by Rep. Jon Santiago
This amendment creates a right to an attorney for low-income residents facing eviction because of COVID-19. Massachusetts will face a tsunami of eviction cases and widespread displacement when the moratorium ends. Creating this right to counsel will help the thousands of residents who could not pay their rent because they lost their jobs or been impacted by the virus.

Amendment 126 – Economic Mobility for Low Income Families
Sponsored by Rep. Aaron Vega
This amendment adds measures to prevent families facing cliff effects or loss of benefits due to minor increases in income and directs the Governor to further coordinate efforts on economic mobility and other programs for low income families. This will help support families with equitable policies and programs as they work to achieve economic mobility and housing stability without barriers and cliffs.    

Amendment 34 – Transfer Fee to Support Affordable Housing
Sponsored by Rep. Mike Connolly
This amendment creates a local option for cities and towns to enact a transfer fee on real estate transactions to provide local funding for affordable housing. Communities could enact a fee of up to 2% and allow exemptions at the discretion of the city or town. This can help provide much needed additional funding for affordable housing.

Amendment 5 – Improving Tenant Participation on Housing Authority Boards
Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Honan
This amendment provides a process to appoint public housing tenants to the boards of their local housing authority in towns. This will help improve the governance of housing authorities by filling the designated seat for tenants on housing authority boards. This tenant seat for housing authorities in towns is currently required by state law but there is no process to fill that seat. 

The Senate is expected to take up its Economic Development Bill later this week.