Senate Passes Housing Bill

(BOSTON—06/27/2024) 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.  

“An affordable, equitable, and competitive Commonwealth is one in which a renter can find an apartment within their budget, a family can afford a down payment on their first home, and residents aren’t priced out of communities where they want to live,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Today the Senate took concrete action to make that vision a reality, a first step in rectifying decades of underinvestment that has led to our housing crisis. I am profoundly grateful for Senator Edwards’ leadership on this bill, to Chair Rodrigues, and to each member of our chamber for contributing ideas to the Senate’s bold vision for a tackling our housing crisis.” 

“I’m thrilled that the Senate, in partnership with the House and the Healey-Driscoll administration, has addressed the very real housing crisis we face today, the greatest impediment to making it in Massachusetts,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This crisis takes many forms, including the lack of available housing, the lack of affordable housing, housing access, and the waitlist for seniors and lower income families. This comprehensive bond bill addresses those barriers—and more—by dedicating $5.4 billion in a multi-year package to tackle this crisis head on. The passage of this legislation today now puts our ambitious plans in motion.” 

“The Housing Bond Bill is more than a legislative measure; it is a bold commitment to the principles of production, preservation, and protection of housing across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Lydia M. Edwards (D-Boston), Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing. “With a $5.4 billion investment, we are building new homes, preserving existing ones, and ensuring that all residents, especially the most vulnerable, have access to safe and affordable housing. This bill can’t fix everything or undo past injustices, but it can course correct and set us on the right path. It acknowledges that solving the housing crisis is a long-term effort, one that requires innovative solutions and ongoing commitment. This act focuses on supporting the vanishing middle class, sealing eviction records, and providing protections for seniors and working-class individuals like teachers, healthcare workers, small business owners, and public servants. Our goal is to create a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future for all in Massachusetts.” 

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, the bill includes policy proposals to further housing equity for both homeowners and renters. The bill contains $5.4 billion in bond authorizations, including: 

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. 

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

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

33 replies on “Senate Passes Housing Bill”

  1. You’ve just abolished single family zoning and covered it with flowery words. It will be hilarious watching virtue-signaling suburban Karens lose their minds when they discover they now live on a rental row jammed with illegals.

    Do legislators get checks from the WEF or does it come in digital currency?

    1. No human being is illegal. This suburban Karen welcomes friendly and responsible new neighbors working towards a better life for their families.

      1. US Code says illegal border crossers are “illegal.”
        Who knows better, you or US Code?
        Is a bank robber illegal? Yes.
        Is a rapist? Yes.

        1. See, you are technically correct. Melanie’s point is to use language that brings our our compassion (what the Dalai Lama refers to as “the new radicalism”) rather than our venom

  2. Like the climate bill, it’s another step forward. Hopefully, the Conference Committees will get these bills reconciled before the formal session ends. Thank you for your efforts on both measures.

  3. It is wonderful that the Senate voted unanimously to approve these many steps toward more affordable housing throughout the State. Many thanks to all who worked to bring this to fruition.

  4. Will this bill really reduced the high cost of living in MA, particularly in same neighborhoods near Boston?
    I hope for it, but I doubt it!

  5. I have heard that the absurd rising housing costs are being fueled partly by AirBnb rentals (and the like). What is being done to stop this?

    1. Lynne, the illegal aliens that Mass. so loves have long been putting pressure on the lower end of the rental market and casuing higher rents.
      That’s the price of illegal immigration.
      I am sure you don’t want to do anything to stop the millions pouring over the border do you?

      1. Thank you!!! 100 percent right
        Too crowed now ask Maura Healy to do something, thousands of illegals and terrorists FBI Director warns of terrorists attacks

    2. Now virtually every single family home will be able to add an AirBnB unit in their basement, attic, or garage regardless of what our cute little local zoning boards say. So AirBnB supply should increase when both of your neighbors open up little hotels on either side of your house.

      1. Short term rentals are not the problem
        Long term rentals do they do the damage as I have experience , short term leave, good credit essentials for good tenants
        Home owners should rent to ever they want to to survive
        Close the borders NOW

      2. Is this supposed to be
        “enacting restrictions (on)
        short term rentals”?

  6. Will, does the bill include 100,000 or so new units to be reserved for illegal aliens who have come and will come into the state?
    If not, those illegal immigrants will continue to put demand pressure on the rental market, especially lower priced units, and thus raise rents.
    I know that rising rents are a concern of yours especially for lower income citizens.
    I am sure you will answer my question about new units being reserved for illegal immigrants.

  7. I’m disappointed you would vote for a bill that allows a tenant a path to seal their eviction record. This would allow tenants who have not paid their rent to seal their records. As a landlord, I have a right to know if a tenant has made prompt and full payment on prior leases.

    1. As we know, PJ, that’s the whole purpose of the current legislature and Mass. DA’s:
      To go easy on people who commit illegality.
      See, they’ve had a tough life caused by people like you and me.
      It’s all OUR fault.
      It’s WE who deserve punishment.

  8. Well done, Will. It will take a while for these measures to produce results, but things will get better over time.

  9. What is the definition of a “Citizen of the Commonwealth?” Is a “barrier to development” the will of the people?

  10. Yes, rents are too high. Yes, there’s a housing (a housing crisis yet open units?) and population crisis, but it took 2 to 3 minutes to even speed scroll through the bills without reading them let alone skim, read and digest them.

    I don’t trust development and developers and the wheeling and dealing happening out of the public eye.

    I’m still a registered Democrat, but there has been a number of seminal events in the Democratic Party recently that teats my trust and really calls into question relationship between the Party’s Populism Department and the Management and Owners of the Party -who vote, but they are not “the voters.”

    A prime example of the moral collapse of my party and revelation of who they serve is the signings of the Sackler settlement.

    A conservative estimate is 500k deaths directly ties to the negligent release of Oxy. An $8b settlement is $16k per American life taken.

    The Union Carbide Bhopal disaster killed around 3k to 10k and in today’s $ that’s $250k per life taken.

    Did our politicians use the bully pulpit to speak of the Sacklers in terms they deserved to be painted with? No! They did not.

    Not only did the Sackler’s negligent and greedy, at best release of a poisonous product lead to immediate deaths and crimes, but it caused far wider destruction to our country and countrymen.

    Our established political class did not win $8b for Sackler’s victims, they have the Sacklers a second chance and a sweetheart PR deal.

    Americans were worth $16k and in Bhopal a life was worth $250k.

    The Supreme Court rejected this corrupt travesty.

    We can do better. The Sacklers are not to big to fail.

    1. And, let’s not forget how our adversaries, chiefly China swooped down on us while we were reeling from the Sackler disaster and poured Fentanyl into the homeland and capitalized on this to fuel the opioid crisis.

      I’m sure there are ultraProgressives who would call our opioid crisis the proper correction of socialist critical theory and just reparations for the Opium wars, but they would be forgetting the innumerable gifts of the West that were given both outright and those stolen and reverse-engineered.

  11. $5.4 billion! That’s a lot to pay to clean up what is largely the Sacklers’ and China’s mess.

    1. What am I saying? Clean up? Hardly. This bill will help, but it’s surely a low bid of sorts.

  12. A bit off topic, but not out of the domain of politics- what happened Thursday night? We’ve seen the rapid effects of spinal arthritis and the conspicuous issues with the teleprompter, but Thursday’s thousand yard stares and inability to speak is almost as concerning as the implications regarding the trustworthiness of the Administration and establishment and the press. Had the President been suffering a cascade of mini strokes? I get rallying behind our leader, but was it really necessary to let the old man fall on his face? I know the MAGA crowd live in a snake-oil cult-bubble, but I didn’t realize my party is propped-up on the lie of “healthy,” and “vigorous” and the sycophancy and self-interest of the press who will dutifully dismiss concerns of Biden’s age by saying “some people may say Biden’s age is a concern” yet not say “my contacts close to the President speak of their concern.” This is not like FDR’s wheelchair. Is the Administration that insulated from the people and senior correspondents, or is the media in collusion? Did nobody ask European leaders at this year’s D-Day commemoration how the American President seemed? I’m ready to buy in to the gaslighting. I want this to be a one-off, but the proof is in public appearances, the second debate and the media and establishment Dems leveling with each other and the people who of necessity must be able to trust them. The first rule in damage control is stop digging. LEVEL WITH US!

  13. Last thing from me is the President has a good cabinet including an excellent Secretary of State. We can draft Cheney, or Kinzinger. If we maintain this leftward a stance we can’t pull the party out of its death-spiral.

    And, we need the vitality of a certain level of immigration.

  14. There is some good stuff here but it all feels very marginal. I want to see stronger zoning reform; I want to see the legalization of multi family housing on all parcels in communities serviced by the MBTA. We are making plans to leave the state when our lease expires because of the lack of affordable housing options. My family desperately wants to stay but without some big changes to the housing market, we can’t. We are a middle class household with good income and it just feels impossible to remain in the city we love.

  15. Will, thank you so much for your work on this. Affordable housing is one of our most important goals.

  16. We’re very disappointed that “no fault”eviction sealing was added to the housing bill.
    In our experience most”no fault evictions” are for a good reason reason: a smoking tenant who signed a no smoking agreement which bothers other tenants but who can’ be evicted for cause without witnesses, same for the noisy tenant, or the one who leaves bags full of trash in the halls.
    Landlords need to know tenant histories both to manage their properties but also to ensure that other tenants can enjoy their quiet enjoyment.
    Think of it this way: would you extend credit to someone without all the information about that creditor?

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