BOSTON (SHNS) – As she unveiled a $55.5 billion annual budget to lay out plans that back up some of her campaign promises, Gov. Maura Healey is also filing promised legislation to create a standalone housing secretary in her executive branch.
The governor’s bill (H 43) will create a Secretary of Housing and Liveable Communities, which Healey on Wednesday said: “will bring urgency and intentionality to driving up production and driving down costs.” The secretariat will “work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive housing development and stabilization strategy,” according to her administration.
As a candidate, Healey promised to split the housing and economic development secretariat in two, citing the imperative to address a “housing crisis” marked by soaring rents and home prices, homelessness, and insufficient new housing stock. Healey’s budget recommendation (H 1) includes $992.1 million for the new secretariat.
“We think it’s certainly going to be a chief reason we’re going to be able to meet or hopefully close the gap on the 200,000 housing units that we are short in Massachusetts,” Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll told the Local Government Advisory Commission in February. Under Article 87 of the Massachusetts Constitution, executive branch reorganization proposals require a legislative hearing within 30 days of being filed, a committee vote within 10 days of the hearing, and must receive an up-or-down vote from the Legislature, without amendment, within 60 days or the action takes effect.
The Legislature allowed a handful of Article 87 reorganizations to take effect without votes under the Baker administration, and to date, there’s been no organized opposition to Healey’s plan to realign the executive branch. If the Legislature passes Healey’s bill, which Driscoll predicted may not happen until summer, she’ll be the first governor since Gov. Mike Dukakis to have a Cabinet-level official in charge of housing and community development. Gov. Bill Weld eliminated the housing secretary post, folding it under the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, in an effort to downsize state government in the 1990s.
Healey appointee Yvonne Hao is currently holding down the role of housing and economic development secretary. Administration and Finance Secretary Matt Gorzkowicz said Wednesday that the governor’s housing secretariat bill would be filed with the budget.