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  • Ben Kaplan

Senate Votes to Inject $5.4B into Housing, Put Homeownership and Affordable Units in Reach

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - June 28th, 2024 

 

CONTACT: Ben Kaplan, Communications Director benjamin.kaplan@masenate.gov  


Senate Votes to Inject $5.4B into Housing, Put Homeownership and Affordable Units in Reach

Senator Moran secures $1.5 million in local funding, regional-impact provisions, as part of omnibus legislation

  



(BOSTON—06/28/2024) The Massachusetts Senate took action today to address the state’s housing crisis. S.2834, An Act relative to affordable homes—also known as the Affordable Homes Act—authorizes $5.4 billion in borrowing and makes crucial policy changes with the goal of building new housing, accelerating the rehabilitation of existing housing, reducing barriers to development, and promoting affordable housing.  

  

Following robust debate, the Senate passed the legislation unanimously. The legislation makes important investments in public housing; housing affordability; sustainable building initiatives; initiatives for first-time homebuyers; essential infrastructure; geographic equity; and incentivizing local best practices. Additionally, Senator Susan L. Moran (D-Falmouth) advocated for policy proposals to further housing equity for current and future homeowners of the Cape and South Shore: 

 

Intergenerational Housing Pilot Program 

On Cape Cod and across the state, many seniors live alone in homes designed for families, with many rooms sitting empty. Meanwhile, countless individuals and families are stuck on affordable housing waitlists, desperate for a place to call home. Senator Moran secured a provision that establishes a pilot program that would allow those over the age of 60 to offer these vacant rooms to those in need, in exchange for services or rent. It addresses the immediate need for affordable housing by utilizing existing resources and seeks sustainable, long-term strategies to tackle homelessness. 

“This amendment is about innovative, compassionate solutions. We can provide stable living options now, while additional affordable housing developments for the future are being built” Senator Moran said.  

 Municipal Right of First Refusal Guide This provision instructs the office of Housing and Livable Communities to develop a guide for municipalities to develop a municipal right of first refusal program for any affordable unit being sold. This would empower local governments, by local option, to preserve affordable housing stock by giving them the first opportunity to purchase units before they are sold on the open market, maintaining affordability for future generations.  


Funding for Local Housing Partners  Recognizing that real progress cannot be made without the boots-on-the-ground efforts of the countless advocates working in the communities most impacted by the housing crisis, Senator Moran successfully advocated for $1.5 million in funding to support housing-focused nonprofit organizations regional operations on the Cape and South Shore. 


 This includes $500,000 for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce for the construction of new accessory dwelling units to increase affordable workforce housing through an employer housing partnership program. A $1,000,000 earmark for the Housing Assistance Corporation will support the establishment of a Regional Housing Resource Center to serve as a vital hub for housing services, providing comprehensive support from homelessness prevention to housing stabilization, with bilingual staff and upgraded technology to better serve the community.  


 “These organizations are longstanding partners in making stable housing a reality for so many,” Senator Moran said. “They have the expertise, dedication, and community trust necessary to develop affordable housing effectively. By allocating these funds directly to these institutions, we leverage their deep-rooted connections and experience in addressing the unique needs of our diverse communities.” 

 

The bill also contains the following in its $5.4 billion in bond authorizations:   


Creating and Repairing Public Housing 

The Senate Affordable Homes Act provides $2.2 billion for repairs, rehabilitation, and renovation across the 43,000 units of state-aided public housing. This significant investment ensures that the state's public housing infrastructure remains safe, modern, and sustainable, so it can continue providing quality living conditions for thousands of families. 

  

To ensure that the Commonwealth makes strides towards its climate goals as it creates housing, $150 million of the funding for public housing is specifically allocated to making energy efficient upgrades.  

  

Spurring Affordable Housing Units 

A further $425 million will go to the Housing Stabilization and Investment Trust fund, working with municipalities, non-profits, and developers to support housing preservation, new construction, and rehabilitation projects for affordable rental units. This will help the longevity and sustainability of affordable housing stock, addressing both immediate needs and long-term housing solutions. 

  

It additionally adds $800 million into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create and preserve housing for households with an income at or below 110 per cent of area median income, helping to bridge the gap between the high cost of housing and what many families can afford.  

  

Building Sustainably 

This bond bill includes $275 million for innovative, sustainable, and green housing initiatives. By finding new ways to build that don’t have such a detrimental environmental impact, these initiatives will help pave the way for a greener housing portfolio in Massachusetts and will be an important part of the state’s response to the climate crisis.  

  

Supporting First-Time Homebuyers in Gateway Cities 

The Senate Affordable Homes Act authorizes $200 million for the CommonWealth Builder program to further the production of housing in gateway cities for first-time homebuyers. This initiative supports economic development in these cities, helping families achieve homeownership and contributing to the revitalization of urban areas. 

  

The legislation also includes $50 million for MassDreams, a program that provides down payment and closing cost grants to first-time homebuyers who meet the program's eligibility criteria and who currently live in one of the 29 communities that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  

Maintaining Essential Infrastructure 

The bill provides $375 million for HousingWorks, a program that awards grants to municipalities and other public entities for a variety of infrastructure-related support. Improving essential infrastructure supports the health and safety of residents and the feasibility of new housing projects. 

  

Of this amount, $100 million will be dedicated to addressing water, sewer, and septic challenges tied to housing developments, and $100 million will help incentivize best practices in communities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and are spending a high percentage of those funds on housing, as well as  MBTA communities that are going beyond the minimum requirements set forth in the MBTA zoning law passed in 2021. Communities that have been proactive in creating transit-oriented development, which reduces traffic congestion and promotes sustainable urban growth, will be eligible. 

  

Addressing Regional Equity 

The legislation includes $150 million in dedicated funds to address the unique housing needs of rural towns, seasonal communities, and mid-sized communities. This ensures that all areas of the state, regardless of size or location, have the resources to meet their specific housing challenges. 

  

The Senate’s Affordable Homes Act also contains multiple policy proposals to go hand in hand with the new authorizations.  

  

Protecting Tenants from Broker Fees 

By requiring that real estate brokers’ fees be paid solely by the party that contracted with them, this legislation ensures that buyers are not burdened with unexpected and extraordinary costs. It also promotes transparency and fairness in real estate transactions. 

  

Establishing Equity-Focused Housing Offices 

The Office of Fair Housing and the Office of Livable Communities and Community Services will be established under the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. These offices will set the Commonwealth on a path to address many decades of housing discrimination by prioritizing equity issues in housing across the Commonwealth, ensuring equal access to housing opportunities for all residents, and offering technical assistance to cities and towns that can sometimes lack dedicated housing staff. 

  

Eviction Record Sealing 

The bill introduces a process for tenants to seal their eviction records in cases of no-fault evictions and other limited scenarios. This policy protects vulnerable tenants from the long-term stigma of eviction records, enhancing their ability to secure future housing and promoting housing stability. 

  

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) 

The legislation prohibits the banning or unreasonable restriction of ADUs in single-family residential zones, promoting flexible housing options. This policy enables homeowners to create additional living spaces, increases housing supply and provides more affordable rental options within established neighborhoods. 

  

Homeownership Tax Credit 

This new tax credit will be available for the production of homeownership units for households that make up to 120 per cent of the area median income, incentivizing housing production and promoting homeownership opportunities. 


“The housing crisis is playing out in real-time, particularly here in my district. We are confronted with the harsh reality that essential workers with good-paying jobs are struggling to keep pace with the rising costs of housing,” Senator Moran said. “Expanding affordable homeownership is the cornerstone of vibrant and stable communities. It provides families with a sense of security, belonging, and investment in their future. Homeownership is not merely about having a place to live; it is about building equity, fostering community pride, and ensuring long-term economic stability for our residents. That is what we are working towards with this legislation.” 

 

Separate versions having passed the Senate and the House of Representatives, the two branches will now reconcile the differences. 

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