Sec. Augustus hits stride with new plans and policies to combat the housing crisis
The Gateway Cities Journal
With housing front and center for state leaders in 2024, MassINC’s policy team hosted Housing Sec. Ed Augustus for a virtual discussion with Gateway City leaders. Participants included 15 mayors and managers along with 60 senior municipal staff representing 23 municipalities.
Highlights of the discussion:
“Do more, quicker.” Augustus said Gov. Healey charged his team with creating a transformative legislative initiative that would move the needle on housing production. The Affordable Homes Act (AHA) released in October includes a $4.1 billion bond authorization estimated to create 45,000 new homes along with 28 policy proposals to facilitate housing production.
The Legislature will hear the AHA next Thursday, January 18th at 10:30 am. Anyone who wishes to testify at the hearing must sign up by January 15th at this link. Written testimony can be submitted anytime to the Housing Committee by emailing Luke O’Roark and Christianna Golden.
The expanded HDIP program is open for business. The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) will soon announce Q&A sessions for developers and municipalities. Augustus stated that applications will be accepted on a rolling basis—something Gateway City leaders have sought to reinstitute—and that the agency will welcome new applications as well as those already in queue.
EOHLC will release surplus state property for housing. Several mayors described difficulties working with state agencies like the MBTA to secure property for housing development. The Secretary indicated that he has made this a high priority and that his office will work with Gateway municipalities to resolve these issues. Language in the proposed Affordable Housing Act would streamline this process and Gov. Healey issued an executive order directing all agencies to work towards this goal.
Passing a local option real estate transfer fee looms as the most controversial proposal. As proposed in the AHA, municipalities would be allowed to vote to adopt a fee on the portion of real estate sales over $1 million. Such funds would be deposited into a local or regional affordable housing trust and spent for the acquisition, preservation, rehabilitation, or construction of affordable housing. Housing advocates and municipalities have long sought this tool, while many real estate trade groups oppose it.
The Secretary wants to ensure that the state does not undermine its own efforts. Several Gateway City leaders identified new barriers that have been created through regulations that can add time and expense to housing efforts. Augustus highlighted the Governor’s new Unlocking Housing Production Commission to look at these issues and promised to compile feedback from Gateway City leaders. EOHLC will also lead the development of a five-year state housing plan.
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