Healey-Driscoll Administration includes a Social Housing pilot in Housing Bond Bill filing

OCTOBER 18, 2023

This morning, I am at a press conference in Chelsea where Governor Healey, Lt. Governor Driscoll, Secretary Augustus, and Secretary Gorzkowicz are announcing the Governor's "Housing Bond Bill" filing, a once-every-five-years bill that authorizes the Commonwealth's capital spending plans on housing and includes several major housing policy proposals.

I am delighted that the Healey-Driscoll Administration has included language to establish a Social Housing pilot as part of the $275 million Sustainable and Green Housing Initiatives item in their $4+ billion housing bond bill filing. Over the past year, I've had several opportunities to engage with the Governor and the LG with regards to the extraordinary potential of the social housing concept, and more recently, I've had meetings with Secretary Augustus and the staff at the new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to further discuss this concept. 

Read: Healey-Driscoll Administration Unveils $4 Billion Affordable Homes Act to Increase Production and Lower Costs

Thank you to the Governor, to the LG, and to Secretaries Augustus and Gorzkowicz for including so many of the long-sought after items in this bill. Several of my top policy priorities for the bond bill have been included: the social housing pilot program and funding authorization, a local option real estate transfer fee to fund additional local affordable housing production, the legalization of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) across the state, and a change to the law to allow inclusionary zoning ordinances to pass by a simple-majority vote (rather than the current 2/3rds approval threshold). 

What Is Social Housing?

Social housing is publicly financed, mixed-income housing, typically owned by a local housing authority or a related entity. In this recent New York Times feature, social housing is described as the state acting like "a benevolent real estate investor." It combines some of the social benefits of traditional public housing with some of the cash-flow and scalability advantages of market-rate development, and it avoids some of the challenges that doomed so many of our public housing programs over the years.

To reach the goal of 200,000 new units by 2030 and 400,000 new units by 2040, we are going to need all of the tools in the toolbox and then some — from market-rate housing development to conventional affordable housing development via low-income housing tax credits, and more. Social housing offers one additional mode of housing production that can work in conjunction with and in addition to all of the other existing development models to help facilitate the production of even more housing, and even more affordable housing, in a way that has proven to be effective and cost-efficient.

In this moment of ongoing housing emergency, when we need to dramatically boost housing production, the social housing model is an effective and efficient way to support that goal. The social housing model could provide another option for facilitating the rehabilitation of state-funded public housing, and it could play a powerful role in advancing Governor Healey's plans to leverage state-owned land for new housing development.

What's Next?

The Housing Bond Bill is expected to be referred to the Joint Committee on Housing; it will likely also make stops at the House and Senate's respective committees on Bonding and Ways & Means. There will likely be multiple hearings and opportunities for the public, advocates, and stakeholders to offer feedback and suggestions.

I'm looking forward to reviewing the bill as a member of the Joint Committee on Housing and as a member of the House Committee on Bonding. Also, the Housing For All Legislative Caucus will be hosting an informational briefing on the social housing model with economist Paul E. Williams at the State House tomorrow morning.

More Information:

Introducing the Massachusetts Social Housing Act, my blog, June 20, 2023

"Social Housing with occupants of all incomes can help move state out of crisis, Connolly says," Cambridge Day, June 23, 2023

"Can social housing help solve the state's housing crisis?WGBH's Morning Edition, June 27, 2023

"What if we treated housing like a public utility instead of private investment," WBUR, June 29, 2023.

"This is public housing, just don't call it that." New York Times, Aug. 25, 2023