BOSTON – Six former state officials who served in the Romney, Patrick and Baker Administrations joined Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy and Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Janelle Chan to endorse An Act to Promote Housing Choices legislation filed by the governor in February.
Former secretaries Ranch Kimball, Dan O’Connell, Greg Bialecki and Jay Ash and former housing undersecretaries Aaron Gornstein and Chrystal Kornegay spoke at the State House event. Representing a wide range of perspectives, political affiliations and administrations, these leaders spoke to the depth of the housing crisis and the pressing need to address the structural factors facing the state.
“Our administration has worked hard to address Massachusetts’ housing crisis with more than $1 billion of investments in affordable housing and a variety of tools to advance thousands of new, market-rate units,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “I appreciate the support of these former state officials, who continue to contribute to the state’s economic strength, and who believe like we do that the Housing Choice bill provides critical zoning tools to jumpstart additional housing production and propel construction in communities across the state, accelerating efforts to reach the goal of 135,000 new units by 2025.”
“Governor Baker and I believe strongly in encouraging best practices through targeted tools like those in the Housing Choice legislation,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “The Commonwealth is at a critical juncture when it comes to housing, as production has dropped below half of what it was in the 1980s and our administration is focused on doing all we can to support communities seeking to address local demand by enabling them to produce the housing they need.”
The Housing Choice bill would enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing production by a simple majority vote of their governing body, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority required. 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 zoning changes. Massachusetts is currently one of only a few states to require a supermajority to change local zoning.
“We continue to advocate for the passage of our Housing Choice legislation to modernize the Commonwealth’s zoning laws and deliver the housing necessary for families, workers and businesses to keep thriving in Massachusetts.” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “I appreciate my predecessors coming forward to challenge the housing status quo and to endorse a bill that will ensure progress on a critical issue to all of our respective administrations. We are operating with urgency on this – passing this bill in the fall enables communities across the state to take action in the spring town meeting cycle.”
“Our families, seniors, workforce, individuals with disabilities, and vulnerable populations have diverse housing needs, and today’s market is not meeting them. Housing that our residents can afford is a crucial resource and An Act to Promote Housing Choices will create the tools we need to promote new housing development across all incomes,” said Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Janelle Chan. “We are proud of the coalition of support for this legislation and the important difference in housing it can make.”
“Massachusetts has one of the most dynamic, forward-moving economies in the entire world but to fully realize our vision of being a welcoming state in which everyone can find their place, we need to have a place for them to live,” said Ranch Kimball, who served as Secretary of Economic Development in the Romney Administration from 2004-2007 and is a former partner at Boston Consulting Group who serves on the boards of numerous philanthropic, educational and civic organizations. “This bill will help us turn around our sluggish rate of building new housing, caused by a 100-year old law that has far outlived its time. I urge the Legislature to pass this bill.”
“The time is now to adopt Governor Baker’s Housing Choice Legislation,” said Dan O’Connell, who served as Secretary of Housing and Economic Development in the Patrick Administration from 2007-2009 and is the former CEO of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. “For Massachusetts to continue to be a desirable place to start and grow a business, we must build the housing the economy demands. The business community has voiced its strong support for the bill and stands ready to play a role in creating workforce housing in the Commonwealth.”
“There is no question that this bill will result in more local zoning changes that support housing, including in my hometown of Newton,” said Greg Bialecki, who served as Secretary of Housing and Economic Development in the Patrick Administration from 2009-2015 and is now principal at Redgate Capital Partners. “Housing that adequately addresses the needs of the community is a critical component of ensuring our economic competitiveness.”
“While our economy is growing, housing production is not keeping pace, resulting in an imbalance and underlying threats to the talented workforce that is our competitive edge,” said Jay Ash, who served as Secretary of Housing and Economic Development during the first term of the Baker-Polito Administration from 2015-2018, after serving as City Manager of Chelsea, and is currently CEO of Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. “Make no mistake, we’re losing affordability in large part because our housing production has fallen off, and that’s why it’s so critical for Gov. Baker’s Housing Choice bill to be adopted.”
“Numerous recent studies have shown there is a shortage of housing that is affordable to working families and seniors throughout the Commonwealth. The Housing Choice legislation would help to address this problem, and I join many others in the affordable housing community in urging the legislature to move this bill forward as quickly as possible,” said Aaron Gornstein, who served as Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development in the Patrick Administration from 2012-2015 and has been the president and CEO of Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), Inc. since June 2015. Gornstein also served as executive director of Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) for 21 years.
“Massachusetts has a housing production crisis, but without the Governor’s Housing Choice legislation, cities and towns that want to be part of the solution cannot follow through,” said Chrystal Kornegay, the former president and CEO of the community development corporation Urban Edge who served as Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development in the first term of the Baker-Polito Administration from 2015 – 2018 and is now the executive director of MassHousing. “Our state now has more jobs than ever before, but is adding new homes for these workers at half the rate of prior decades. Passing Housing Choice will help ensure that homes across Massachusetts are accessible and affordable to all residents, especially working families across the income spectrum.”
Since re-filing the Housing Choice bill in February 2019, the Baker-Polito Administration has been working with partners and stakeholders across the state to raise awareness for the bill. In May, Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and Secretary Kennealy all testified before the Joint Committee on Housing, where the bill remains under review.
The Housing Choice bill was recently endorsed by organizations including Massachusetts AARP, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Smart Growth Alliance, Citizens Housing And Planning Association (CHAPA), Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts Municipal Association and Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), as well as local mayors and town managers in communities across the state.
Zoning changes that promote best practices for housing growth that would qualify for the simple majority threshold under the new legislation include:
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.
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.
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 11,000 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.
The Baker-Polito Administration has shown a deep commitment to increasing the production of housing across income levels. In July, Governor Baker announced the 2019 Affordable Rental Housing Awards, which supported the preservation and production of 1,581 rental units, and also announced awards totaling $4.4 million to upgrade 240 state-aided public housing units through the Comprehensive Sustainability Initiative. Since 2015, the administration has invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing, resulting in the production and preservation of more than 17,000 housing units, including 15,000 affordable units.