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HomeSpotlight Story | Bird’s Eye View | Budget & Taxes | Politics & Leadership | Governors | Hot Issues | Once Around the Statehouse Lightly
Saying a lack of affordable housing is becoming a drag on the state economy, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation earlier this month that would relax zoning controls in Bay State cities and towns.
Baker said a lack of housing is driving up rental rates, making much of the current housing stock unaffordable and forcing workers to live further and further away from their jobs. That in turn further burdens the state’s already-stressed transportation system and may ultimately create a worker shortage as employees opt to seek employment outside urban hubs.
“This is an economic issue. Where is the next generation of your employees going to come from? And where are they going to live? And how are they going to afford to be here?” Baker said in announcing the bill, which is intended to produce 135,000 new housing units by 2025.
Baker introduced a similar bill last year, but it did not come up for a vote. He says he listened to feedback from lawmakers on that measure in crafting the new bill, which would make it easier for municipalities to waive zoning restrictions in order to facilitate the production of new housing units.
One key element in that regard would be to reduce the voting threshold for some local permit-granting authorities from a two-thirds “supermajority” vote to a simple majority vote. It would also provide $10 million in state incentives to further boost development.
The bill has drawn strong support from a bevy of local mayors and community leaders in the Boston area, as well as groups like the Commercial Real Estate Development Association of Massachusetts, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
The governor’s case was bolstered on Thursday by the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, who said there are 160,000 people on waiting lists for public housing in the Bay State.
Critics, however, contend that Baker’s plan is not explicit enough in its requirements. (BOSTON HERALD, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE [BOSTON], SALEM NEWS)