Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy announces a COVID-19 economic recovery package, an update to the Baker-Polito Administration’s “Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth,” to generate economic growth amid the pandemic at a State House press conference on June 26. (Photo courtesy Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

On June 26, Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy announced an update to the administration’s economic development bond bill, An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth, which now totals $275 million over five years.

The administration’s update to a bill originally filed on March 4 is meant to reallocate funding and provide new tools to promote equity and drive economic growth in today’s dramatically different economic landscape.

The bill (HB 4854) includes:
• $40 million for neighborhood stabilization to return blighted or vacant units back to productive use, including in communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19
• $35 million for transit-oriented housing development to produce new, high-density, mixed-income affordable housing developments located near major transit nodes, to help mitigate environmental and traffic concerns, and increase production in areas most impacted by COVID-19
• $10 million for climate-resilient production of affordable, multi-family housing developments
• Expansion of the Housing Development Incentive Program by raising the annual cap from $10 million to $30 million and allowing similarly situated communities in need of housing to be eligible for the program
• $40 million to support redevelopment of underused, blighted or abandoned properties into active commercial space, housing, or green or civic space, with targeted investments to help address development costs, including those related to code compliance, remediation, and build-out or fit-out of spaces
• $10 million for a new rural and small town development fund for community and infrastructure development needs
• $5 million of regional and community assistance for planning initiatives undertaken by individual municipalities, jointly by cities or towns, or entire regions, to address shared goals related to community development, housing production or other issues of local and regional concern

The bill now sits before the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets after being reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies on July 15.

The now-revised bill no longer includes the governor’s Act to Promote Housing Choices, which would change state law to reduce the vote threshold needed to adopt certain zoning changes, from two-thirds to a simple majority, in order to promote housing production. This proposal has been strongly supported by the MMA and a broad coalition of stakeholders.

In testimony on June 26, the MMA voiced strong support for the governor’s bill.

“We applaud the administration for recognizing that true progress in these areas can only be achieved when the state and its cities and towns work together as partners,” the MMA wrote.

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