Massachusetts Lt. Governor Discusses Plan to Build More Housing
Massachusetts Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll made an appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight hours after she appeared in New Bedford with Governor Maura Healey to celebrate investments the Healey-Driscoll Administration is making in clean energy projects such as offshore wind.
The primary topic of conversation during Driscoll's on-air appearance, however, was the ongoing housing crisis and how the administration plans to address the lack of affordable and available housing in the Commonwealth.
According to Driscoll, Massachusetts is currently 200,000 units of housing short of where it needs to be, and only about 20,000 new units of housing are being built per year.
The Lt. Governor explained that the low supply of housing is driving up its cost. She also stressed that the lack of housing is not only a detriment to public health, but to the competitiveness of Massachusetts as a place where people want to become a resident or remain a resident of.
"Anyone who hands you anything over a counter, anyone who pours coffee or beer for a living, folks who are working in service industry. If they can't afford to live in our communities, it's going to make us less competitive from a workforce perspective," Driscoll said.
One of the solutions the Healey-Driscoll Administration has put forward is creating a Secretary of Housing.
Currently, housing policy in Massachusetts falls under the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Driscoll said that having a cabinet-level office dedicated solely for the purpose of housing development and housing policy can supercharge the production needed to fill the 200,000-unit gap.
"We think it's really pivotal that we have somebody who's part of our cabinet that's waking up every day working on tools to develop additional housing," she said.
Another proposal the Healey-Driscoll Administration has put forward is incentivizing development of market-rate housing in gateway cities like New Bedford and Fall River by expanding the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP).
Driscoll, who previously served as Mayor of Salem for 17 years, explained that most of the housing development in gateway cities is focused on affordable housing because of its cost-effectiveness, and that market rate housing doesn't have the same margin for profit.
HDIP provides subsidies that developers can access to make the development of both affordable and market-rate housing in gateway cities more cost effective.
The Healey-Driscoll Administration's budget quintuples HDIP tax credits from $10 million to $50 million.
"There's been such a backlog that we know that these dollars can be put to good use and help revitalize many of our gateway cities," Driscoll said
The Lt. Governor was also asked about the push for rent control and rent stabilization measures in Boston and New Bedford and what the administration's position on those polices is.
As of now, rent control ordinances in cities and towns in Massachusetts have to be enacted through the Home Rule Petition process. This means that after the town passes the ordinance, it must then be passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.
"As someone who's been a longtime mayor, we really support providing communities with the tools that they need," Driscoll said. "So we know that there's a lot of communities for whom they think tools like this is what they want to have in their tool kit to tackle housing."
"We are also very supportive of this production issue, because we know if we can produce more housing, and even preserve the existing affordable housing that we have, that's going to make it more affordable for families, young adults, and seniors to stay in our communities," she said.