On May 14th the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce submitted testimony to the Joint Committee on Housing supporting H.3507, An Act to Promote Housing Choices.
The Chamber understands the critical need for affordable workforce housing in Greater Boston and the state. The high cost of living in Greater Boston, including the cost of housing, affects the ability of regional employers to attract and retain a talented workforce. We need to provide affordable workforce housing options with access to transit and other amenities to maintain the region’s competitive advantage.
Governor Baker’s proposed legislation is a straightforward, incremental, regional, and practical solution that supports additional housing production and, importantly, strikes a balance with existing municipal authority. By allowing local authorities to adopt certain zoning changes that promote best practices with a simple majority instead of the two-thirds supermajority currently needed, more communities will be able to plan and expand the supply of housing while protecting the autonomy of local decision makers and the important role they play in defining a community’s character. This legislation would be the first significant change to state zoning regulations in decades and a good first step to addressing the state’s housing challenge.
Housing is nearing a crisis point in Massachusetts. The demand for housing is increasing as our economy and population continue to grow. At the same time, low housing production limits the available supply. The result is a tightening grip that drives home prices higher and homeownership rates down, especially among our region’s younger residents. Across Massachusetts, the current two-thirds supermajority requirement favors the status quo of large single-family homes over the multi-family projects that are an important factor in solving this imbalance.
By loosening the supermajority requirement, this bill can spark the momentum needed to solve the housing crisis, so the Committee should move quickly to advance it. We acknowledge this is a first step and follow-up discussions are necessary. However, because this bill is straightforward and simple, there is a broad coalition of leaders in the business, advocacy and municipal sectors supporting it.