Today,\u00a0Governor\u00a0Charlie Baker, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Chrystal Kornegay testified\u00a0at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Housing in support of the administration\u2019s\u00a0Housing Choice Initiative to substantially increase housing production across the Commonwealth, including legislation titled \u201cAn Act to Promote Housing Choices.\u201d\n\nTESTIMONY AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BY GOV. CHARLIE BAKER:\u00a0\n\nChairman Honan, Chairman Boncore, and Vice Chairman McGonagle and members of the Joint Committee on Housing, thank you for opportunity to provide testimony in support of House\u00a0 4075, \u201cAn Act to Promote Housing Choices.\u201d\u00a0\n\nAs I emphasized in my State of the Commonwealth speech last week, we are grateful for our productive partnership with the Legislature.\u00a0 We have a track record of success on issues like economic development, opioids, energy, and more.\u00a0 Now, together, we must confront the issue of housing production in the Commonwealth.\n\nIt has been decades since this state produced enough housing to keep up with demand.\u00a0 The result has been predictable.\u00a0 A limited supply creates overheated demand and rising prices.\u00a0\n\nYoung people --- seniors --- young, working and middle class families can\u2019t afford to rent or buy a home here in the Commonwealth.\n\nWe know that the Legislature recognizes the importance of this issue.\u00a0 Senate President Chandler has championed the housing issue for decades.\u00a0 Likewise, the House has been a great partner on housing issues like the Housing Bond Bill.\u00a0 I also want to recognize that Chairman Honan and former Vice Chairwoman Dorcena Forry filed legislation that lowered voting thresholds for adoption of 40R smart growth zoning.\n\nThanks to this committee\u2019s leadership, the House just engrossed the Housing Bond Bill, which will fund important programs to build and preserve affordable housing, to support our community development corporations, and to rehabilitate our state public housing stock.\u00a0 I hope that the Senate will quickly take up that legislation.\n\nThe gap between housing demand and housing supply in the Commonwealth is one of the thorniest issues for State and local governments.\u00a0 Massachusetts is one of the most expensive states to find a home, and it poses the most serious long-term hurdle to continued economic growth.\u00a0\n\nThis proposed legislation is part of our comprehensive strategy to build 135,000 new housing units over the next seven years.\u00a0\n\nIt builds on our new Housing Choice Initiative, and will facilitate housing production in partnership with our municipalities.\n\nThe Housing Choices bill before you offers a new approach to address that challenge by making it easier for local decision-makers \u2014 city and town officials \u2014to adopt best practice zoning policies that will facilitate sustainable housing production across the Commonwealth.\n\nWe live in a great state.\u00a0 U.S. News and World Report ranked Massachusetts the #1 state in which to live, work, and raise a family.\u00a0 Education Week ranked our K-12 schools #1 in the country.\u00a0 Bloomberg named Massachusetts the most innovative state.\u00a0 And we offer incredible cultural, recreational, and other assets that make Massachusetts a place where families want to live and where employers want to grow.\n\nYet, we are building less than half the housing that we were building in the 1980s.\u00a0 And we are not building the number of multi-family housing units that we need in diverse locations across the Commonwealth to accommodate the workforce we need to continue our economic growth.\u00a0\n\nThe bottom line: Massachusetts needs to build more housing to remain competitive economically and to serve the needs of all of our residents.\u00a0\n\nOur Administration has been committed to a robust housing agenda, significantly expanding our investments in workforce and affordable housing and committing more than $1.1 billion in capital funding over the next five years, offering state land for housing development, and making a series of reforms to prompt housing production.\n\nHowever, we also understand that there is no way that the State can fund enough subsidies to drive the level of housing production that we need to meet demand.\n\nTo really move the needle on housing production, we need to rely on the power of the market. That means we need to work with municipalities to set the conditions that will allow the market to meet housing demand.\n\nBoth Lt. Governor Polito and I served as members of our town select boards, and we understand that local government is closest to the people.\u00a0\n\nCities and towns are on the front lines of development issues.\u00a0 As we seek to promote housing production, we believe this must be done in partnership with local elected and appointed officials.\u00a0\u00a0 Working with the Massachusetts Municipal Association and other municipal stakeholders, we are seeking to create a comprehensive system of incentives, rewards, and technical assistance to encourage municipalities to plan and encourage housing production.\n\nWe think that municipal legislative bodies are the best place to set local housing policy.\u00a0 Accordingly, our legislative proposal makes no changes to local zoning bylaws but instead improves flexibility for town legislative bodies to make best practice, smart growth zoning changes.\u00a0 It accomplishes this by removing a barrier that makes it hard for towns adopting these changes, even where they are broadly supported: a state law requiring a supermajority vote to change zoning.\u00a0\n\nNothing in the bill requires a municipality to change its zoning laws.\u00a0 The bill simply makes it easier for cities and towns that do want to make zoning changes that promote smart housing growth to do so.\n\nThe bill also reflects a belief that policies encouraging housing growth should align with other values our Administration has championed, such as our commitment to encourage good stewardship of our environment and reduce greenhouse gases.\u00a0\n\nAccordingly, our Housing Choice Initiative creates incentives and provides resources to adopt planning policies that direct growth toward downtowns and transit oriented locations.\u00a0 Our legislation encourages municipalities to protect undeveloped land by adopting best practices, like cluster zoning and transfer of development rights.\n\nWe are pleased that this proposal has been well received by a variety of stakeholders.\u00a0 When announcing our comprehensive Housing Choice Initiative, we were joined by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, individual municipal elected and appointed leaders, major business associations, planning organizations, housing advocates, and environmental groups.\u00a0\n\nAs we strive to find more creative ways to encourage more housing developments, our administration believes this bill is a key component of our long-term plan.\u00a0 With your support, we can promote housing growth that is smart, responsive to local needs, and environmentally friendly.\n\nThank you for your time and attention.\u00a0 With your leadership, we can make progress on an issue that has stubbornly resisted reform for a generation.\u00a0 Working together, I am confident that we can find a way forward to a better Commonwealth.\n\n\u00a0\n\nTESTIMONY AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BY SEC. JAY ASH:\u00a0\n\n\u00a0\u201cAn Act to Promote Housing Choices\u201d\n\nMassachusetts has a long and proud tradition of local home rule and the Baker-Polito Administration has a culture of respecting the role of municipal leaders in shaping their community\u2019s future.\u00a0 As the former City Manager of Chelsea, I appreciate that local decision making and buy in is key to successful housing production.\u00a0\n\nIn fact, I\u2019m proud to be here as someone who helped facilitate the development of more than 2,000 housing units in Chelsea.\u00a0 That housing production was a key part of the redevelopment of Chelsea as a vibrant and financially stable municipality.\n\nI carry that experience across the Commonwealth as I travel to cities and towns and consult with municipal leaders about their own economic development and community visions.\u00a0\n\nHousing, including multi-family housing, is a cornerstone of how we revitalize our downtowns, convert underutilized shopping centers, and build sustainable municipalities that are places where people want to live, work, and play.\n\nFor communities that want to pursue zoning that produces housing in sustainable locations, however, there\u2019s long been a legal barrier that we believe the Legislature should eliminate:\n\nState law bars cities and towns in Massachusetts from adopting changes to zoning laws unless the municipality is able to secure a 2/3 \u201csupermajority\u201d vote of its legislative body.\nOnly a handful of other states have similar requirements and none of our neighbors in New England place this sort of restriction on local decision making.\n\nIt is time to remove this barrier to the adoption of zoning changes that promote sustainable, appropriate and much needed housing production.\u00a0\n\nOur legislation allows cities and towns to adopt best practice zoning techniques by majority vote of their legislative bodies.\u00a0 These best practices will facilitate diverse housing production, they will revitalize our downtowns, and they will promote land conservation and environmental stewardship.\n\nThe legislation is simple.\u00a0\n\nIf a municipality wants to reduce house lot sizes or other dimensional restrictions so that homebuilders can create housing that is more affordable to the average buyer, then the voting threshold is a simple majority.\n\tIf a municipality wants to allow mixed use zoning in a downtown, then the voting threshold is a simple majority.\n\tIf a municipality wants to create zoning that clusters houses together and conserves land compared to a typical suburban development, then the voting threshold is a simple majority.\n\tIf a municipality wants to adopt 40R \u201csmart growth zoning,\u201d including our new starter home 40R districts, then the voting threshold is a simple majority.\n\tIf a municipality wants to allow accessory dwelling units \u2013 small apartments in the same building or on the same lot as an existing home \u2014 then the voting threshold is a simple majority.\nIf a municipality wants to allow changes to its zoning that foster the creation of more housing, then the voting requirement is a simple majority.\u00a0 And if a municipality does not want to change its zoning, it does not have to.\n\n\u00a0\n\nTESTIMONY AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BY UNDER SEC. CHRYSTAL KORNEGAY:\u00a0\n\nHousing Choice Initiative\n\nIn December, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the Housing Choice Initiative and filed \u201cAn Act to Promote Housing Choices.\u201d\u00a0 There are five parts to our comprehensive housing production strategy:\n\nThe first element is the Housing Choices bill that Secretary Ash just described.\n\tSecond, we announced a goal of creating 135,000 housing units by 2025.\u00a0\u00a0 It is important to set a target and then monitor progress, and we will do that.\u00a0 In fact, working with Massachusetts Housing Partnership, we are working to improve housing data across the board.\n\tThird, the administration has launched a \u201cHousing Choice Designation\u201d for cities and towns, modeled on the Green Communities Program.\u00a0 We want to recognize those municipalities who are helping us meet our housing challenge.\u00a0 Communities that achieve Housing Choice Designation will receive extra points on a wide variety of state capital grants as an incentive to build housing and to adopt housing production best practices.\n\tFourth, Housing Choice municipalities will have exclusive access to a new state grant program that will make grants of up to $500,000 for local capital projects.\u00a0 Because we recognize that our smallest municipalities have different challenges, there will be a separate Small Town Grant Program for towns with less than 7,000 people.\u00a0\n\tFifth, we are streamlining access to technical assistance and adding resources for municipalities who want to plan for sustainable housing production.\u00a0 Our new Housing Choice Program Director will coordinate the variety of technical assistance programs to make sure that any municipality that wants to plan for housing will have the right resources and expertise.\u00a0 As part of this, MassHousing recently announced a new $2 million grant program that will support municipalities that want to drive their own housing future.\u00a0\nThank you again for the opportunity for us to come here in support of \u201cAn Act to Promote Housing Choices.\u201d\n\nWe\u2019re happy to take any questions.