K.I.S.S Early College and HDIP
The Gateway Cities Journal
Economic development strategies are most likely to succeed when their logic is clear and simple, so that communities embrace the plan, and pursue it with laser focus long enough for it to work. This is playing out with Early College and HDIP. Gateway City leaders have spent years working to operationalize these programs. In March, they descended on the State House to talk with legislators about how their efforts are benefiting the entire commonwealth.
It began the week before last with Gateway City leaders trailing along with students. Current and former Early College goers filled the halls of the State House to share how the experience has shaped their aspirations for higher education and supported and motivated them to succeed. Backing the students, Gateway City educators and business leaders asked legislators to maintain their unblemished track record. Each year, the legislature has fully covered the costs of projected enrollment, increasing the Early College line items so that more and more students can take advantage of this pathway statewide.
This encouragement was well received by legislators. The budget process is already off to a strong start. Governor Healey’s FY 24 request fully funds Early College. Equally important, it creates a new line item that directs reoccurring revenue from Question 1 to the initiative. This large new revenue source can play a vital role in ensuring that sufficient funding is available for the long term, as Early College programs scale up to serve tens of thousands of students annually.
Last week, Gateway City leaders returned to the State House to testify in support of the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP). The Revenue committee held hearings on Gov. Healey’s tax package, which contains provisions increasing the annual HDIP cap to $50 million in FY 24 to address a large backlog, and then provides $30 million each year thereafter. (The committee also heard testimony on a bill with similar language filed by Rep. Antonio Cabral and Sen. John Cronin, the co-chairs of the Gateway Cities Caucus.) Sharing her practical experience with HDIP as a former Gateway City Mayor, Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll made a compelling case for how this long overdue increase will help tackle the state’s housing crisis.
With Massachusetts’ skilled workforce shrinking for the first time in recorded history, and costs increasingly pushing low-income students out of higher education, Early College is essential to ensure that businesses in every corner of the state can hire the employees that they need. Similarly, HDIP is one of the most efficient tools that we have to produce more housing. Without additional housing to keep residents from migrating out of state, the impact of Early College and other workforce investments will be severely muted.
From a local economic development perspective, Early College and HDIP work together in tandem. Early College positions more Gateway City residents to move up the economic ladder. By creating modern downtown housing, HDIP helps ensure that these Gateway City natives have the opportunity to remain in their communities and contribute to them with increased purchasing power, and skills to serve on boards and commissions, as well as in elected office. HDIP can even provide a tool to help those who want to invest back in their communities by purchasing long-vacant lots and underutilized buildings and returning them to life.
Early College and HDIP aren’t the flashiest of economic development strategies. But this “keep it simple stupid” approach has a record that is second to none. With the legislature’s support, the formula will deliver big for Gateway Cities and the commonwealth.
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