Economic Development bill advances in House and Senate
Big news! On Tuesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to approve House Bill 4887, An Act enabling partnerships for growth, that included many priorities championed by Great Neighborhoods on zoning reform, affordable housing, and tenant protections. The Senate passed its version yesterday, Senate Bill 2842.
Both bills include Governor Baker’s Housing Choice reforms, which will make it easier for cities and towns to approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by reducing the required vote from a supermajority to a simple majority. [Note that it will not affect Boston because the city has separate state zoning rules.] We see this as a civil rights victory that will help dismantle housing segregation, particularly in suburban communities. It will make it easier for communities to pass accessory apartment ordinances (ADUs), reduce parking requirements, create transit-oriented development, and incentivize market-rate developers to include affordable housing in their projects. The Senate language goes further by setting a statewide target for affordable housing and requiring all communities in the MBTA service region to zone for apartments near transit.
Both versions of the bill also include tens of millions of dollars for affordable housing programs.
The branches took different approaches on tenant protections. The House required court-approved mediations to take place before evictions; to allow municipalities the local option to give tenants the right of first refusal in the event of a sale; and add tenants to local Housing Authority boards. The Senate did none of those, but adopted the HOMES act, which prevents minors from being named in eviction proceedings, seals no-fault eviction records, and prevents sealed records from being reported to credit agencies. We will have to make sure that all of these tenant measures get adopted by the conference committee or else they could be dropped from the final bill.