Legislature Sends Final Economic Development Bill to Governor Baker

In the early hours of January 6, the Legislature sent its final Economic Development bill (H.5250) to the Governor. The bill includes many transformative housing policies that CHAPA and our membership have advocated for, including Housing Choice, zoning for multi-family housing in MBTA communities, and other provisions that will allow more Massachusetts residents to find and stay in affordable homes in communities of their choose.

A shortage of affordable homes, decades of restrictive zoning, and a history of gentrification and redlining continue to perpetuate segregation in our state. The housing provisions in the Economic Development bill are much-needed tools for systemic change towards more equitable housing policy. With these tools, communities will be able to create more homes for people who need them while preventing displacement and promoting fair housing for all.

CHAPA thanks House Speaker Mariano, Senate President Spilka, Representative Michlewitz, Senator Lessor, other members of the Economic Development Bill conference committee, Housing Committee Chairs Representative Honan and Senator Crighton, and the Legislature for supporting these critical reforms.

The Governor now has ten days to sign or veto the bill. We are urging Governor Baker to quickly sign the bill to make these policies, tools, and resources available for our communities to help create more housing and recover from the pandemic.

Visit our Action Alert page to learn how you can contact the Governor to ask that he sign the bill.

The following is a summary of the housing-related items in the Economic Development Bill. This link provides a slide-deck with an overview of the housing-related provisions.

Housing Choice
Implements zoning reform to help cities and towns approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by lowering the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level from a two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority.

Multifamily Zoning in MBTA Communities
Requires designated MBTA communities to be zoned for at least one district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as-of-right.

Abutter Appeals
Allows judges to require non-municipal parties who appeal special permits, site plan review, and variances to post a bond up to $50,000 to secure statutory costs. This provides judges with discretion to consider the merits of the appeal and the relative financial ability of the parties. This will discourage frivolous lawsuit brought only to slow or stop new housing development.

Local Housing Authority Board Member Elections
Creates a process for residents of local housing authorities to be appointed to the boards of their housing authority.

State Low-income Housing Tax Credit
Increases the annual state low-income housing tax credit program cap from $20,000,000 to $40,000,000.

Eviction Record Sealing
Seals all no-fault eviction records. Also prohibits minors from being named in a summary process summons and requires expungement of the names of any minors from any court record or electronic docket.

Transit-Oriented Housing Developments 
Authorizes $50,000,000 in capital grants and loans for transit-oriented housing and the production of high-density mixed-income affordable housing near transit.

Climate-Resilient Affordable Housing Developments
Authorizes $10,000,000 for sustainable and climate-resilient construction in affordable, multifamily housing developments to better respond to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Neighborhood Stabilization
Authorizes $50,000,000 for neighborhood stabilization to help return blighted or vacant housing back to productive use.

Tenant’s Right to Purchase
Creates a local option establishing a tenant’s right of first refusal and outlines a process by which tenants occupying a residential property may purchase said property prior to its sale or foreclosure.

Gateway Cities Housing Program
Authorizes $5,000,000 for a Gateway City housing pilot program to support the construction of shovel-ready market-rate housing opportunities.

HDIP Programmatic changes
Requires at least 10% of units built with the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) to be affordable for people whose income is not more than 60% of the area median income (AMI) or owner-occupied units for those whose income is not more than 80% AMI. Also amends the HDIP program to increase transparency and equity.

40R Smart Growth
Permits the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to establish smart growth design standards, clarifies that mixed use development is allowed, places limitations on density bonus payments for housing in districts limited to age-restricted, disabled, or assisted living populations, and enhances DHCD’s ability to claw back incentive payments if a community repeals 40R zoning.