BOSTON — Not taking action to address a housing shortage in the state could drive an “enormous amount” of young workers and families out of Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday as he announced plans to propose a tweaked version of a housing production bill he advocated for last session.
“We are making a grave mistake with respect to creating the kind of future that we all want for the next act and the next generation that comes after us if we don’t do our job and get back into the business of housing production,” Baker said at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast.
Backed by the real estate industry, the Massachusetts Municipal Association and some housing advocates, the bill Baker filed in November 2017 sought to reduce, from two-thirds support to a simple majority, the threshold for approving certain local zoning changes aimed at spurring housing production.
Baker said his new housing bill will be slightly different but “thematically” very similar. The governor did not provide specifics on what would change in a new bill either during his address or afterwards.
“We certainly got some guidance from the Legislature last year, and we’ll incorporate some of the feedback we got, especially from the folks on the Housing Committee, into our filing,” he told reporters.
While agreeing about the need for more housing production, lawmakers did not bring Baker’s bill to the floor for a vote in either the House or Senate last session. Noting that Sen. Nick Collins and House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz were in the audience Tuesday morning, Baker jokingly suggested that the crowd gathered in a Westin Copley Place ballroom “tackle Collins and Michlewitz and just hold them down” to work on the bill.
Michlewitz, asked after the speech about revisiting Baker’s housing proposal, said he thinks “there was a lot of good stuff in that bill last year,” and that lawmakers are “still trying to get things situated” for the new session that began Jan. 2.
“Committees are just getting started, people are just moving into their offices,” said Michlewitz, who was tapped on Feb. 14 to chair the committee that vets most major legislation before it reaches the House floor. “I think there’s still a little ways to go in having a real game plan of laying out what we’re going to do, but I think we’ll hopefully get things done this session and we’ll keep those conversations going.”
Saying the State House can sometimes function like a “hall of mirrors,” Baker said his administration “couldn’t find anybody that was opposed to our bill” last session, but it still didn’t pass.
Reps. Mike Connolly of and Denise Provost had both criticized the bill for lacking an affordability component. After House leaders didn’t surface a housing production bill for debate during formal sessions last year, Connolly asked Speaker Robert DeLeo not to bring a bill to the floor during lightly attended informal sessions.