Baker’s Economic Development Bill Builds on Gateway City Strengths

The economic development package positions Massachusetts and its Gateway Cities for strong, equitable, and sustainable growth.

Baker’s Economic Development Bill Builds on Gateway City Strengths

March 9, 2020


Baker’s Economic Development Bill Builds on Gateway City Strengths

Boston – On Wednesday, March 4, 2020, Governor Baker unveiled An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth (H. 4529). This comprehensive economic development package represents a solid step toward positioning Massachusetts and its Gateway Cities for strong, equitable, and sustainable growth. The Governor’s bill contains several provisions with the potential to play a particularly powerful role increasing the vitality of Gateway Cities across the state by building on their strengths.

Dr. Tracy Corley, MassINC’s Transit-Oriented Development Fellow, draws connections between the new legislation introduced by the Governor and the transportation financing bills up for debate in the House this week: “It’s clear that we need to make major investments in transit infrastructure. But at the same time, we must be talking about how we promote dense, mixed-use development on the land surrounding stations to get the most from our transit investment, improve housing affordability, and expand economic opportunities for current Gateway City residents and businesses. The Governor’s bill sets the stage for an excellent discussion.”

Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), co-chair of the Gateway Cities Legislative caucus, concurs. “Gateway City legislative leaders have worked together with MassINC over the years to advocate for new tools to draw much-needed investment into our communities. Rail improvements can certainly help position our communities to serve as more powerful regional economic centers, but only if we have tools to stimulate equitable transit-oriented development.”

Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty points to the need to strengthen residential neighborhoods surrounding Gateway City train stations. “Governor Baker’s economic development package will help us leverage Union Station and grow downtown Worcester, but it also recognizes that the city’s neighborhoods are critical to our long-term success. This bill will go a long way toward helping us maintain our historic triple-decker neighborhoods for the next generation.”

Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), who introduced legislation increasing the cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program in 2019, appreciates that the administration recognizes the value of this tax credit in particular. “Lynn needs more housing and housing stock that can accommodate a range of households. HDIP is a vital tool to ensure that Lynn grows and develops into a healthy mixed-income community.”

Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), who co-chairs the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus and the Joint Committee on Economic Development that will hold hearings on this legislation, welcomes the discussion. “I’m grateful for the Administration’s efforts at crafting this legislation and look forward to our hearing and further engagement from the legislature. In particular, the plans focus on Gateway Cities is welcome news and an area of policy I will remain especially focused on.

Press Contact: Meridith St. Jean
Phone: 617-244-1611

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Summary of Major Gateway City Provisions Included in H. 4529

  1. Tripling the Cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program

429 will raise the annual cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) from $10 to $30 million. HDIP is a vital tool to create vibrant mixed-income neighborhoods near transit by stimulating market-rate residential development on long-dormant empty lots and vacant and underutilized buildings. The $10 million annual cap currently in place has severely constrained its use. An increase to $30 million will catalyze a wave of private residential investment in Gateway City downtowns.

The Baker Administration’s Future of Transportation Commission and MassDOT’s Congestion report drew attention to the need to channel investment into Gateway City downtowns with underutilized land near existing transit stations. Through research, events, and podcasts, MassINC has worked to demonstrate the role HDIP can play helping the state achieve this goal.

  1. Creating a New Fund to Support Neighborhood Stabilization

4529 contains $25 million to strengthen Gateway City neighborhoods by revitalizing blighted and abandoned homes. Many Gateway Cities still have neighborhoods suffering from the ill-effects of the foreclosure crisis. By helping cities acquire and repair long-vacant one to four-family properties, this program will preserve vital housing stock, increase homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families, and prevent a few problem properties from pulling entire neighborhoods down.

This new program advances recommendations made by a group of Gateway City housing and community development leaders assembled by MassINC and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations in 2019.

  1. Making the TDI More Transformative

H. 4529 provides MassDevelopment with greater flexibility to support development projects through its successful Transformative Development Initiative (TDI). TDI is a multi-year effort to lend capacity to Gateway City efforts to strategically target areas for revitalization. Informed by MassINC research, the previous administration created TID in a 2014 economic development package, the Baker administration has been a steadfast supporter of the TDI model, strengthening and expanding the program across the state. The proposed changes would give MassDevelopment the ability to work collaboratively with partners to redevelop properties, as opposed to serving exclusively in the lead role as majority owner.

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