BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Maura Healey wants to separate housing and economic development in the state’s bureaucracy, mostly to give housing production the enhanced focus she says it desperately needs.
But Healey doesn’t want to completely shatter the connection between the two topics. According to the details of a government reorganization bill she filed last week, Healey wants oversight of public and private community redevelopment corporations and their projects to be divided between the new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, which is supposed assume all of the powers and responsibilities of the existing Department of Housing and Community Development, and the new Executive Office of Economic Development.
Oversight responsibility will be exercised by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities for projects exclusively or primarily focused on housing development, according to a March 1 letter Healey wrote with her bill, and by the Executive Office of Economic Development for projects primarily or exclusively focused on commercial development. Healey says her bill also duplicates the current legislative authorization for MassWorks, a popular infrastructure grant program, in a new “HousingWorks” statute “dedicated exclusively to funding municipal infrastructure that supports new or redeveloped housing.”
That change, Healey said, will ensure that officials in the new housing secretariat can make use of the grants currently provided to municipalities “pursuing smart housing growth policies.” The bill also “includes some provisions that update and streamline the organization and administration of agencies” currently under the Executive Office of Economic Development, including the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.
In her filing letter, Healey describes a “housing crisis” in Massachusetts that she says “has been in the making for decades” and contributes to a high cost of living that “places Massachusetts at a significant disadvantage as we compete with peer states to attract and retain businesses.” Cracking that problem, in an environment where key housing decisions are made at the local level, remains the challenge facing Beacon Hill.
“In short, we must create an adequate supply of housing for our young families, workers, and an aging population if we want to remain one of the best states in the nation to live and work,” Healey wrote. Warmer weather states in the south and west have in recent years drawn new residents in part due to lower cost of living metrics.