June 29, 2022

Relax zoning to boost housing production

The high cost of living and doing business in Massachusetts was a major concern for Maura Healey as the attorney general and gubernatorial candidate addressed a business breakfast on Tuesday, telling attendees that Massachusetts had “an affordability issue on our hands, that’s for sure”. and offering more concrete clues as to what she might do about it if elected governor.

As members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce dined on scrambled eggs and bacon at the Seaport Hotel, Healey told them she understood how the stress of housing, transportation and childcare costs affected their businesses and the quality of life of the Bay Staters.

“The impacts of this, of course, are vast. Families are struggling to get by, costs are eating away at people’s safety nets. We even see it in the sharply rising rate of food insecurity across the state. Racial wealth gaps that have persisted for too long and are only getting stronger, and in general, too few are [able] to buy a home, build wealth or invest in their children’s future,” Healey said. “I know you see the impacts on the business community every day. You have employees who are moving, who have moved, who are thinking of leaving their jobs for higher wages or who have to stay home to take care of their children because child care is too expensive. You also need to adapt to rising costs of goods and services, materials and gas, and other supply chain issues.

She said it “starts with housing” and that taking “aggressive action” to increase the state’s housing stock is an economic, public health and racial justice imperative for Massachusetts. And on that front, Healey, who won the Democratic Party’s endorsement in the race to succeed Governor Charlie Baker on Saturday, delivered many of the same notes Baker has for nearly eight years pushing lawmakers to take action. to increase housing production.

“We need a lot more housing of all kinds across the state,” Healey said. “We need to increase state resources for this, we need to loosen and remove some of the zoning barriers that get in the way, we need to increase first-time homeownership and help close the wealth gap. racially through the expansion of down payment and council housing assistance programs, and we need to create units around transit.

Zoning rules in Massachusetts, often cited as a barrier to new housing, are controlled by local town and city officials.

Healey also said the state’s public transportation system “is in desperate need of an overhaul” to meet the needs of the state’s changing workforce and to make it realistic for people to ditch their gasoline-powered cars in favor of public transport. Everyone at breakfast had to get there one way or another on Tuesday morning, Healey said, and ‘the train probably took too long’ or ‘it may have cost too much’ and he “certainly created pollution along the way”.

“We need to invest in transport to ensure it is reliable, safe and accessible. Now, as… someone who wants to get more people out of their cars and into public transport to solve really critical climate issues, we’re not going to do that – we can’t expect to what people do – unless we’ve got buses, trains, commuter trains and the T running on time so that makes sense and actually guarantees to get people in safely from point A to point B,” she said. “So we have to think of Massachusetts, our entire bus and rail system, not just as a means of transportation during peak hours, but as a system that serves the entire state, a system that reflects the change , and I mean changed, demographics and trends.

Whether it’s housing, child care and early education, transportation or the cost of living, Healey said Tuesday his goal is to keep Massachusetts competitive with other states as a where people want to live and where businesses want to do business.

“I think the question for Massachusetts right now is how are we going to fight to be competitive? How are we going to ensure that our families, our residents and our businesses are in a thriving economy and that we are able to drive collectively, ”she said.

Although she didn’t mention it at all during her remarks on Tuesday morning, one of the ideas Healey supports for investing in some of the problem areas she checked off is to pass the surtax on annual household income greater than $1 million that will be on the national ballot in November. The estimated $1.3 billion it could raise annually would be earmarked for investments in education and transportation.

The so-called millionaire tax is deeply unpopular within the business community Healey spoke to Tuesday morning. Its host, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, not only opposes the surtax, but this spring filed a brief in the lawsuit challenging the constitutional amendment summary and description of a “yes” vote that Healey is about to provide voters on the ballot.

While Healey has argued that investments in housing and transportation (among other things) are necessary for Massachusetts to maintain its competitive edge, many in the business community have spent years arguing that abandoning the structure a flat state income tax would make Massachusetts less competitive and less attractive to growing businesses.

In a press release this week, Associated Industries of Massachusetts highlighted two recent U.S. Census Bureau reports that showed how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated migration from major northern population centers like Boston to “busy suburban cities.” technological rise of the South and the West. ”

On a list of the 15 US cities with the biggest population losses in the first year of the pandemic, AIM said, Revere ranked third with a 4% drop in population and Boston was 12th, having lost about 3% of its population.

“The numbers are a sobering reminder that high-cost states like Massachusetts and California cannot wantonly raise taxes and other costs for businesses and individuals and expect them to stick around for great clam chowder,” said AIM President and CEO John Regan. “Massachusetts voters considering a constitutional amendment this fall that would raise taxes on many home sales and retirement savings should remember that the entrepreneurs driving Massachusetts’ economic prosperity might just decide they have other options.”

When asked after her speech in the House how she balances her support for the income surtax with her calls for the business community to partner with investments in housing and transportation, Healey told the journalists that she thought “it’s a balancing act”.

“I support the fair share amendment,” she said, using a term often used by supporters. “I think we can do both. We need income to be able to make the kinds of investments we need to propel our economy.