Gateway City leaders testify before committees weighing neighborhood stabilization bill

The Gateway Cities Journal

Wednesday night’s unanimous House vote in favor of the Student Opportunity Act was a watershed moment. Gateway Cities owe a debt of gratitude to education committee chairs, Representative Alice Peisch and Senator Jason Lewis, who skillfully crafted this truly historic legislation and built buy-in among the membership of both branches. We will have much more to say on this as the bill moves to the Governor’s desk. In the meantime, we devote this installment of the journal to the diligent work of two other committees: Revenue and Community Development.

Gateway City leaders appeared before these committees this week to enlist their support for an Act Relative to Neighborhood Stabilization. The product of a collaborative effort led by MassINC, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, and the Gateway Cities legislative caucus, the bill provides tools and policy changes to help strengthen residential neighborhoods struggling with the ill effects of blighted and abandoned property.

The Revenue Committee, co-chaired by Pittsfield Senator Adam Hinds, heard the bill on Tuesday. Testimony from Lynn Senator Brendan Crighton and others largely addressed the increase in the Housing Development Incentive (HDIP) program, one of several changes the bill seeks to accomplish. Proponents pointed to MassINC research demonstrating how HDIP creates housing stock that would not otherwise get built with very modest public subsidy. These new market-rate housing units increase the socioeconomic diversity of high poverty neighborhoods, adding purchasing power to support grocery stores, restaurants, and other services that provide amenities for all residents, helping to stabilize weak real estate markets and shore up municipal finances.

In nearly two hours of testimony before the Community Development Committee, co-led by Methuen Senator Diana DiZoglio, proponents mostly addressed the bill’s spot blight eminent domain section. New Bedford Representative Antonio Cabral was joined by Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and a host of other Gateway City leaders frustrated by how difficult it has become to obtain and rehab many vacant properties blighting residential neighborhoods.

From addressing concentrated poverty that fuels rising income inequality to maintaining public health and public safety, the arguments for doing more to preserve aging Gateway City housing stock are numerous; however, the most relevant to the news of the week is the fiscal implications for the Commonwealth in the context of the Student Opportunity Act.

Without adequate tools to rehab abandoned homes before the blight spreads, the residential tax base of Gateway Cities will erode, leaving taxpayers all across the state on the hook to pick up more of the significantly higher Foundation Budget cost. Because blighted properties affect the valuation of all of the surrounding homes, successful neighborhood stabilization efforts will keep the state from shouldering tens of millions of dollars in local aid payments year after year.

Housing & Economic Development

Rob May, Brockton’s dynamic city planner, gets a five-year contract extension with a unanimous vote by the City Council Finance Committee.

BayCoast Bank awards EforAll a $60,000 grant to expand programming for their South Coast office, which serves the communities of Fall River and New Bedford.

Local and state leaders gather at a ribbon-cutting for new downtown housing in Haverhill, the latest development by Traggorth Companies made possible with financing from the Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund.

The Community Builders complete dramatic renovations to the Lyman Terrace housing development in downtown Holyoke.

New Bedford‘s Suites at Wamsutta Place receives a $5 million loan from MassDevelopment. The mill renovation project will add 33 market-rate lofts to the downtown housing supply.

Wayfair’s CEO returns to his native city of Pittsfield to celebrate the opening of a new call center, which aims to hire 300 employees.

City Lab looks at the relationship between housing shortages and gentrification.


Fall River moves forward with plans to improve sidewalks.

The Fitchburg Department of Public Works purchases new equipment in an attempt to better repair the city’s potholes.

Transit officials from the MBTA and Keolis meet with Salem journalists to talk about improvements in performance and customer satisfaction on commuter rail.

On the Codcast podcast, MassINC Polling’s Rich Parr goes deep on the recent commuter rail/Gateway City TOD poll.

Joe Aiello, the chair of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, urges MBTA staff to start planning for a major effort to launch regional rail service.

According to a new study, children who grow up in walkable cities earn more as adults. 


Attleboro considers a major reorganization of grade level groupings, school assignment zones, and schedules.

Brockton High School receives an anonymous $25,000 donation to convert its old computer lab into a bilingual center, where students can gain support building computer skills in their native languages.

Lawrence High receives $1.8 million in state Innovation Pathways Grants to increase college and career preparation programs. 

New Bedford opens seven family engagement centers to increase family-teacher communication and create a supportive community for students.

Salem State rolls out a new plan to unify and modernize its campus.

A recent Worcester public schools survey reveals that 26 percent of students have limited or no access to technology to do homework at home.

Communities & People

Moose on the loose! Worcester’s had three visitors over the past two weeks

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