House Passes $6.5 Billion Housing Bond Bill

June 14, 2024

Dear Cambridge and Somerville Constituents:

Last week, I joined with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a historic $6.5 billion housing bond bill.

To put this number in perspective, the last time we did a "housing bond bill" — i.e. the legislation that authorizes capital spending on our state's affordable housing development programs — it was a $1.8 billion bill, and it was rather light on policy.

Governor Healey proposed her version of the bill back in the fall — the $4.2 billion Affordable Homes Act, which also included 28 policy provisions. Frankly, I was concerned the House might try to trim down the bottom line on her bill. However, I was delighted when Speaker Mariano agreed we should "Go Big" on housing investments right now — as reflected by this 261% increase over our last bond bill from six years ago. We also kept many of the Gov's policy proposals (such as a social housing pilot program and ADU's by right), added some new ones (such as a tenants' opportunity to purchase act, i.e. TOPA), but unfortunately left some others aside (such as the local option real estate transfer fee).

Highlights from the House-version of the bill include:

  • ADU's by-right. This bill effectively eliminates single family zoning by legalizing ADUs (accessory dwelling units) by-right statewide. I was proud to vote in support of a consolidated amendment to make these changes and to stop conservative and Republican efforts to significantly undermine them.
  • Social Housing pilot program.The bill authorizes spending on a Social Housing pilot program and other innovative mixed-income development strategies, including a new revolving loan fund. I've been very proud to lead the effort this session to advance the concept of Social Housing in Massachusetts, and I am very pleased to see this provision was retained in the bill.
  • Public Housing renovations. Provides over $2 billion for desperately needed upgrades to our state-funded public housing. As a product of state-funded public housing myself, I've been very active in advocating for this big increase in funding, working in partnership with groups like the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and others.
  • Promotes new ways of accessing homeownership. I was proud to co-sponsor an adopted amendment filed by Reps. Livingstone and Consalvo to finally enable a local-option Tenants’ Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), also known as a Tenant's Right of First Refusal. This gives tenants a chance to partner with local nonprofits to match the purchase price when their buildings are put up for sale, thus providing a new path to homeownership and housing stability for renters.
  • Removes barriers to housing production. Speaker Mariano spearheaded a $1 billion initiative to expand the M.W.R.A. — bringing water service from the Quabbin Reservoir to more communities on the North Shore and South Shore, thereby removing a major barrier to new housing development. I love this because I think we can do more to address some of the legitimate reasons why some communities resist new housing — and this will go a long way toward that goal, making the case for new housing even stronger.
  • Offices of Housing Stability. I was proud to co-sponsor an adopted amendment filed by Rep. Doherty to provide funding for municipalities who wish to establish local Offices of Housing Stability, based on models established in the City of Boston with Lydia Edwards and in the City of Somerville with Ellen Shachter, et al.
  • Pro-Labor Apprenticeship Career Paths. I was proud to co-sponsor an adopted amendment filed by Rep. Kushmereck that requires all contractors and subcontractors engaged in construction, development, renovation, and remodeling to maintain or participate in an apprenticeship training program for each trade or occupation represented in their workforce.
  • Historic Rehab Tax Credit for Affordable Housing. I was proud to co-sponsor an amendment filed by Rep. Honan that extends the period for which the Massachusetts Historical Commission and Commissioner of Revenue can annually authorize a tax credit for for historic rehab and doubles the overall amount to $110 million. Allocates 50% of tax credits issued by the historical commission through 2030 to affordable housing projects.

Thank you to Speaker Mariano, Ways and Means Chair Michlewitz, to our Housing Committee Chair Jim Arciero and Vice Chair Meg Kilcoyne, and to all of my colleagues who worked to advance this bill. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration, where I am hopeful they will also add a local option real estate transfer fee, eviction sealing provisions, and inclusionary zoning by simple-majority vote.

For my part, I also co-lead-filed an amendment to enable a local option real estate transfer fee to fund local affordable housing efforts alongside my Worcester colleague Rep. LeBoeuf, and I co-sponsored additional amendments in support of the transfer fee, including a Rep. Gentile amendment that incorporated ideas I've been promoting inside the State House to try to get to "Yes" on the transfer fee.

Earlier this spring, Speaker Mariano indicated an openness to supporting the transfer fee in this bill, but as debate on the bill drew closer, he changed direction and said he didn't think it had enough support to pass the House. To be sure, I am confident we can structure the transfer fee in a way that allows us to capture some of the wealth that's being extracted by commercial real estate developers and speculative investors in our neighborhoods, while at the same time protecting working-class homeowners from any significant tax increase.

Nevertheless, I am holding out hope that we can get the transfer fee back in the bill via the Senate version. As I said to members of our LOHA Coalition (Local Option for Affordable Housing), it's altogether possible that House Leaders may agree to the transfer fee in the end and are simply positioning for maximum leverage in conference negotiations with the Senate on the final version of the bill. 

For my part, I am continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure the final version of the bill retains all of the great items we added and gets even stronger. After all, the ongoing housing emergency is turning into an actual disaster for poor folks, for families, for many seniors, for the unhoused, and even for our economy, as employers struggle to find workers who can afford to live in their communities. Housing is the number one issue facing our Commonwealth, and as your State Rep. I am determined to do all I can to make progress on this issue before our formal sessions end on July 31.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my staff.

Yours in service,

Rep. Mike Connolly