DiDomenico Supports Bill that injects $5.4B into Housing

Puts homeownership and affordable units in reach

Special to the Record

Senator Sal DiDomenico voted with his colleagues last week to address the state’s housing crisis. S.2834, An Act relative to affordable homes—also known as the Affordable Homes Act—authorizes $5.4 billion in borrowing and makes crucial policy changes with the goal of building new housing, accelerating the rehabilitation of existing housing, reducing barriers to development, and promoting affordable housing.

Following robust debate, the Senate passed the legislation unanimously. Senator Sal DiDomenico proposed amendment #144, “Responsible Development and Taxpayer Protection,” which was adopted and passed in the bill. The amendment ensures all contactors start at a level playing field by:

• Requiring general contractors to disclose past violations of state and federal laws prior to working on these housing projects;

• Restricting contractors who have been fined by federal and/or state authorities for committing serious violations of wage, labor, health and safety practices from participating in projects funded by this bill; and

• Prohibiting contractors on any of the state’s debarment list from being awarded construction funding authorized by this bill.

“I am proud to support this historic investment to address the housing crisis, one of the most pressing issues affecting my constituents and residents across the Commonwealth,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “This bill will repair and create housing, help countless individuals find the home they need, and ensure people can continue to live in the community they have lived in their entire lives. I am also thrilled to share that my amendment that would hold contractors accountable for labor and wage violations was adopted, which will ensure all contactors start at a level playing field and that we protect workers. I want to thank Governor Healey, Senate President Spilka, Senator Rodrigues, and Senator Edwards for bringing this ambitious plan to life and including voices and perspectives from all over Massachusetts.”

“An affordable, equitable, and competitive Commonwealth is one in which a renter can find an apartment within their budget, a family can afford a down payment on their first home, and residents aren’t priced out of communities where they want to live,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Today the Senate took concrete action to make that vision a reality, a first step in rectifying decades of underinvestment that has led to our housing crisis. I am profoundly grateful for Senator Edwards’ leadership on this bill, to Chair Rodrigues, and to each member of our chamber for contributing ideas to the Senate’s bold vision for a tackling our housing crisis.”

The legislation makes important investments in public housing; housing affordability; sustainable building initiatives; initiatives for first-time homebuyers; essential infrastructure; geographic equity; and incentivizing local best practices. Additionally, the bill includes policy proposals to further housing equity for both homeowners and renters. The bill contains $5.4 billion in bond authorizations, including:

Creating and Repairing Public Housing

The Senate Affordable Homes Act provides $2.2 billion for repairs, rehabilitation, and renovation across the 43,000 units of state-aided public housing. This significant investment ensures that the state’s public housing infrastructure remains safe, modern, and sustainable, so it can continue providing quality living conditions for thousands of families.

To ensure that the Commonwealth makes strides towards its climate goals as it creates housing, $150 million of the funding for public housing is specifically allocated to making energy efficient upgrades.

Spurring Affordable Housing Units

A further $425 million will go to the Housing Stabilization and Investment Trust fund, working with municipalities, non-profits, and developers to support housing preservation, new construction, and rehabilitation projects for affordable rental units. This will help the longevity and sustainability of affordable housing stock, addressing both immediate needs and long-term housing solutions.

It additionally adds $800 million into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create and preserve housing for households with an income at or below 110 per cent of area median income, helping to bridge the gap between the high cost of housing and what many families can afford.

Building Sustainably

This bond bill includes $275 million for innovative, sustainable, and green housing initiatives. By finding new ways to build that don’t have such a detrimental environmental impact, these initiatives will help pave the way for a greener housing portfolio in Massachusetts and will be an important part of the state’s response to the climate crisis.

Supporting First-Time Homebuyers in Gateway Cities

The Senate Affordable Homes Act authorizes $200 million for the CommonWealth Builder program to further the production of housing in gateway cities for first-time homebuyers. This initiative supports economic development in these cities, helping families achieve homeownership and contributing to the revitalization of urban areas.

The legislation also includes $50 million for MassDreams, a program that provides down payment and closing cost grants to first-time homebuyers who meet the program’s eligibility criteria and who currently live in one of the 29 communities that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maintaining Essential Infrastructure

The bill provides $375 million for HousingWorks, a program that awards grants to municipalities and other public entities for a variety of infrastructure-related support. Improving essential infrastructure supports the health and safety of residents and the feasibility of new housing projects.

Of this amount, $100 million will be dedicated to addressing water, sewer, and septic challenges tied to housing developments, and $100 million will help incentivize best practices in communities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and are spending a high percentage of those funds on housing, as well as  MBTA communities that are going beyond the minimum requirements set forth in the MBTA zoning law passed in 2021. Communities that have been proactive in creating transit-oriented development, which reduces traffic congestion and promotes sustainable urban growth, will be eligible.

Addressing Regional Equity

The legislation includes $150 million in dedicated funds to address the unique housing needs of rural towns, seasonal communities, and mid-sized communities. This ensures that all areas of the state, regardless of size or location, have the resources to meet their specific housing challenges.

The Senate’s Affordable Homes Act also contains multiple policy proposals to go hand in hand with the new authorizations.

Protecting Tenants from Broker Fees

By requiring that real estate brokers’ fees be paid solely by the party that contracted with them, this legislation ensures that buyers are not burdened with unexpected and extraordinary costs. It also promotes transparency and fairness in real estate transactions.

Establishing Equity-Focused Housing Offices

The Office of Fair Housing and the Office of Livable Communities and Community Services will be established under the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. These offices will set the Commonwealth on a path to address many decades of housing discrimination by prioritizing equity issues in housing across the Commonwealth, ensuring equal access to housing opportunities for all residents, and offering technical assistance to cities and towns that can sometimes lack dedicated housing staff.

Eviction Record Sealing

The bill introduces a process for tenants to seal their eviction records in cases of no-fault evictions and other limited scenarios. This policy protects vulnerable tenants from the long-term stigma of eviction records, enhancing their ability to secure future housing and promoting housing stability.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

The legislation prohibits the banning or unreasonable restriction of ADUs in single-family residential zones, promoting flexible housing options. This policy enables homeowners to create additional living spaces, increases housing supply and provides more affordable rental options within established neighborhoods.

Homeownership Tax Credit

This new tax credit will be available for the production of homeownership units for households that make up to 120 per cent of the area median income, incentivizing housing production and promoting homeownership opportunities.

Separate versions having passed the Senate and the House of Representatives, the two branches will now reconcile the differences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *