BOSTON (WWLP) – It’s now eight months into Gov. Maura Healey’s administration and the wait continues for major proposals from the Corner Office to address perhaps the governor’s signature issue: housing affordability and production.
Some people in the advocacy world feel that’s going to change soon, and want the governor to “go big” to address the state’s housing crunch.
“We have been hearing that the housing bond bill could show up some time this month,” Phil Jones of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization told the News Service on Tuesday. “We are expecting the governor to make her proposal first.”
Jones said he’s not heard what’s in the bill, and said some legislators have said that they’re waiting for Healey to make the first move — the executive branch oversees state capital spending, putting it in a good position to understand which programs may be running low on available funds.
Housing activists have been pressing the idea of enabling cities and towns to assess fees on real estate transactions to raise money for affordable housing and Jones said administration officials “spoke positively” about that idea at a recent GBIO event, but the organization is unsure if Healey will actually propose it.
“We’re not sure where that will show up, but we’re feeling confident about it passing with administrative support this session,” said Jones, who lives and rents in Boston and is co-chair of GBIO’s housing justice campaign. “She could roll it into a bond bill.”
Many transfer fee supporters want to see the new levy slapped on higher-end housing transactions, and crafting a proposal that would enable all 351 cities and towns to take advantage of a new fee regime, not just those with higher property values, looms as a policy challenge.
The real estate lobby has strongly opposed transfer fees, deriding them as new taxes, and has helped defeat fee proposals for years on Beacon Hill.
GBIO and other housing groups have identified $8.5 billion in deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed at state-owned public housing units and is hoping for at least $1 billion to be included in the bond bill. The transfer fee, public housing investments, and housing access for people coming out of jails and prisons are among the topics GBIO plans to push during a fall campaign featuring meetings with state representatives and senators, Jones said.
“Our best move is to try to get these issues into the public eye as much as possible,” he said.
Citizens Housing & Planning Association hopes a bond bill will recapitalize programs that serve working families, the elderly, people with disabilities and those who are homeless. The group expected Healey to offer a housing bond bill in the spring, according to its website.
In 2018, lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker agreed on a five-year, $1.8 billion housing bond bill, and advocates say money from that package is running out.
During budget debate in May, Sens. Liz Miranda and Jamie Eldridge talked up the need for improvements at 43,000 public housing units in 242 Massachusetts communities.
“Something that is on the minds of many of us is the affordable housing bond bill and the need for us to pass that this session,” Eldridge, former co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing, said.