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Press Release Baker-Polito Administration Highlights Housing Choice Bill in Springfield

Local stakeholders join chorus of voices calling for passage of legislation to support new housing production in Massachusetts
For immediate release:
2/28/2020
  • Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
  • Housing and Community Development
  • Housing Choice Initiative
  • Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Highlights Housing Choice Bill in Springfield

Ryan Boehm, Director of Communications

Governor Baker in Springfield spotlighting the administration's Housing Choice legislation.

SPRINGFIELD — Today, Governor Charlie Baker joined Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox, along with legislators, local officials and community stakeholders to highlight An Act to Promote Housing Choices. This legislation was re-filed by Governor Baker last year and calls for targeted zoning reform to advance new housing production in Massachusetts and support the Administration’s goal to produce 135,000 new housing units by 2025.
 
Past events spotlighting the Housing Choice Legislation have taken place in EasthamptonBarnstableLawrenceSalemWilliamstownGraftonHaverhillWorcesterEverettLowellQuincy, and Provincetown.
 
“Our Housing Choice legislation will empower communities to meet local housing demand and plan for future growth, and we are proud of the broad and diverse level of support it has earned,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We applaud Springfield for their efforts to produce new housing and look forward to working with the legislation to advance this bill this session.”
 
“Springfield has prioritized housing production across income levels and skillfully leveraged multiple state resources, including MassWorks, Urban Agenda and MassDevelopment’s TDI program to create new opportunities for the region,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Each of Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities is unique, and we look forward to providing more tools like our Housing Choice legislation for communities across the state to continue to attract and retain talent, encourage entrepreneurship, and bring new residents into downtown businesses.”
 
Today’s event at Springfield City Hall also featured Senator James T. Welch, Representative Michael Finn, Representative Carlos González, Representative Bud Williams and community stakeholders including Way Finders President & CEO Peter Gagliardi, Springfield Technical Community College President John Cook, and First Resource Companies President and CEO Gordon Pulsifer.
 
Since 2015, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded over $24 million in Federal and State Low Income Housing Tax Credits as well as $12.6 million in subsidy funds to support more than 1000 housing units, approximately 900 affordable, within the City of Springfield.

“We included housing as a pillar in our new economic development plan, Partnerships for Growth, because it is a vital piece of the equation for every household in Massachusetts,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Kennealy. “As our economy grows, we know that the lack of housing our families can afford is a major stumbling block for long-term, sustainable economic success. Without this legislation, we will continue to see good projects delayed and production stalled.”
 
“Massachusetts is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. But for too many households, rising housing costs threaten their ability to stay housed,” said Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox. “If the cost of living continues to rise, we will see more families moving farther away from opportunity and farther away from their home communities. We urge our partners in the legislature to take this first, important step towards more sensible zoning that will meet the needs of residents across the Commonwealth.”
 
“Governor Baker’s Housing Choice legislation strikes a delicate balance that maintains local control over zoning while better empowering communities to adopt housing production best practices for all types of housing,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. “This bill represents the best path forward for each community to produce more housing that addresses their specific needs.  In Springfield, we continue to work hard to create housing options that meet the demands of our residents.  Governor Baker’s legislation will allow other communities to do more of what Springfield is doing.  This bill reduces the threshold from a two-third vote to a simple majority vote only for a specific set of housing zoning measures aimed at producing housing of all types.  While the two-thirds vote has not been an impediment in the City of Springfield, I recognize that the supermajority is a significant obstacle for other communities seeking to create more housing.  This change could prove to be a major boost in helping to move along not just local housing initiatives across the Commonwealth, but also provide an additional tool in helping to spur economic development projects too.  I cannot stress enough that all of our communities across the Commonwealth need to step up and take on their fair share of this Housing Initiative.”
 
The Housing Choice legislative proposal will enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing production by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. While this legislation will lower the voting threshold to change zoning for all communities in the Commonwealth, it does not require cities and towns to make any of these changes. With the proposed simple majority threshold, municipalities that pursue rezoning efforts including those enabling transit-oriented or downtown-oriented new housing, would gain approval if they achieve more than 50 percent of the vote, as opposed to the current super majority of more than 66 percent. Massachusetts is currently one of only a few states to require a supermajority to change local zoning.
 
Zoning changes that promote best practices for housing growth that would qualify for the simple majority threshold include:

  •  Building mixed-use, multi-family, and starter homes, and adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning in town centers and near transit.
  • Allowing the development of accessory dwelling units, or “in-law” apartments.
  • Approving Smart Growth or Starter Homes districts that put housing near existing activity centers.
  • Granting increased density through a special permit process.
  • Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning.
  • Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.

This legislation also includes a provision, added by the Joint Committee on Housing last session, that would reduce the voting threshold for a special permit issued by a local permit granting authority to a simple majority vote, for certain multi-family or mixed-use projects with at least 10 percent affordable units in locations near transit or, in centers of commercial activity within a municipality.
 
“This comes at a critical time for the Springfield Community,” said Senator James Welch. As Springfield continues to innovate and transform, it is imperative that we meet housing needs for all current and future residents.”
 
“It is imperative that we find solutions to address the housing stock shortage in Massachusetts. I look forward to working with the Governor to establish more access to housing for residents in Springfield and beyond,” said Representative Carlos Gonzalez, Chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus (MBLLC).
 
“Access to housing, especially affordable housing, is hugely important to me, and this bill will help in the larger effort of creating more housing,” said Representative Bud Williams. “I hope to build on the momentum in Springfield with regards to housing production and economic development, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Baker-Polito Administration on behalf of my district.”
 
“We appreciate Governor Baker’s commitment to address the growing shortage of housing of all kinds that threatens the Commonwealth’s ability to sustain economic growth,” said Peter A. Gagliardi, President and CEO of Way Finders. “While this is at the crisis stage in the eastern part of the state, it is also a concern here in greater Springfield. As we experience job growth and economic development in our region, we are already experiencing a tightening of the market that has led to higher prices for homes and higher rents. To achieve our goals for a growing, vibrant economy, we need to be sure that a shortage of housing does not become an obstacle to our aspirations. The administration’s Housing Choice Initiative reduces a significant barrier to housing production while also offering incentives to communities that do the right thing.”
 
"STCC, with approximately 8,000 students each year, thinks deeply about housing given that 85% of our students live within eight miles of campus,” said John B. Cook, Ph.D., President of Springfield Technical Community College. “Community college students, a critical workforce resource for local economies, benefit from the diversification and expansion of housing, and STCC is appreciative of the Housing Choice Initiative." 
 
There are several barriers to housing however it is my opinion that the Housing Choice Bill will move us one step closer to truly unlocking the production to new housing and affordable housing across many communities in Massachusetts,” said Gordon Pusifer, President and CEO of First Resource Companies.
 
Today’s show of support built on bipartisan endorsements from officials and organizations including former Secretaries of Economic Development from the Romney, Patrick, and Baker administrations. The bill was formally discussed at the May 14th hearing of the Joint Committee on Housing.  The legislation is part of the administration’s Housing Choice Initiative, which provides incentives, technical assistance, and capital grant funding to encourage new housing production that meets the long-term needs of the Commonwealth’s growing, and aging, population.
 
The Baker-Polito Administration has shown a deep commitment to increasing the production of housing across income levels. Since 2015, the administration has invested more than $1.1 billion in affordable housing, resulting in the production and preservation of more than 18,000 housing units, including 16,000 affordable units. In 2018, Governor Baker signed the largest housing bond bill in Massachusetts history, committing more than $1.8 billion to the future of affordable housing production and preservation. The Baker-Polito Administration has also advanced the development of more than 14,000 mixed-income housing units through the successful MassWorks Infrastructure Program, reformed the Housing Development Incentive Program, and worked with communities to implement smart-growth development and planning efforts.

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Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Highlights Housing Choice Bill in Springfield

Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development 

The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development promotes vibrant communities, growing businesses, and a strong middle class.

Housing and Community Development 

DHCD oversees funding and resources to help people in Massachusetts live affordably and safely.

Housing Choice Initiative 

The Housing Choice Initiative provides incentives, rewards, technical assistance and targeted legislative reform to encourage and empower municipalities to plan and build the diverse housing stock that the Commonwealth needs to continue to thrive

Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito

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