The Senate on July 29 unanimously passed its version of a multiyear economic development bill, just days after the House passed its version.

The House bill (H. 4887) contains the governor’s Act to Promote Housing Choices, as redrafted by the Joint Committee on Housing. The proposal, intended to promote housing production, would change state law to reduce the vote threshold needed to adopt certain zoning changes, from two-thirds to a simple majority. The legislation would not, however, require a community to bring forward any of the specified types of zoning changes.

The Housing Choices Act has been strongly supported by the MMA and a broad coalition of stakeholders including the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and NAIOP – The Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

In a statement to House and Senate leaders on July 30, the coalition urged legislators to pass the Housing Choices language in the House bill.

The Senate bill (S. 2874) includes an amendment that would mandate zoning changes in the 175 communities listed in the MBTA statute, requiring a zoning ordinance or bylaw that provides for at least one district in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right. Any community that fails to comply with the mandate would be penalized by becoming ineligible for funds from the MassWorks program, the Housing Choice Initiative and the state’s Local Capital Projects Fund. The MMA strongly opposes this preemption of local authority.

On July 30, representatives and senators were assigned to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve the many differences between the House and Senate bills. Because the session has been extended beyond the usual end date of July 31, it is unclear when the differences may be resolved.

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