The Economic Development Bill is Back

November 11, 2022

- By The MAR Legal Team

Though the two-year formal legislative session ended in August without finality on several significant housing pieces, the Legislature continued its work during informal sessions to reach a compromise on the much-awaited economic development bill. And we continued our advocacy. Earlier this week, the Legislature passed an updated compromise bill (H.5374) containing several important housing elements MAR supports: 

  • Funding – the bill contains just under $450 million in funding for housing production and related services. That’s a big number and a clear demonstration that Legislators are taking seriously the state’s housing needs. At the same time, it represents less than 12% of the funding allocated in this bill. It’s a win for housing, but one we hope to build on in 2023.  

Some noteworthy line items include: 

  • $100 million for production of below-market housing for first-time homebuyers and socially disadvantaged individuals 
  • $100 million for workforce housing 
  • $100 million to bolster the state Affordable Housing Trust 
  • $50 million to create a financing program for the construction or redevelopment of underutilized properties into new residential, commercial, or light-industrial uses  
  • $50 million to expand broadband access 
  • Over $10 million in funding for local housing initiatives  
  • $3.5 million for first time homebuyer assistance 
  • Increasing the viability of starter home zoning – The bill creates a small technical change that will yield big results. The program is currently part of the Smart Growth Law, which limits its effectiveness. The bill shifts the program into a stand-alone law, freeing it from ill-fitting additional requirements. Starter home districts permit smaller homes on smaller lots, a form of housing the state desperately needs to better serve first-time homebuyers, seniors, and the workforce. We’re excited to see what this change can accomplish, especially in the state’s suburban and rural areas. 

The bill is now before the Governor who has 10-days to either sign it into law, reject it, or return it with amendments. Because the Legislature is in informal session, the latter option could create waves and a debate about whether the Legislature should return for a special session.  

With a new Legislative session arriving in 2023, we’re looking forward to building on the momentum of this important legislative victory and taking on new challenges that arise.  

UPDATE – November 11, 2022: On November 10, Governor Baker signed the majority of the economic development bill into law, returning a handful of vetoes to the Legislature. The most notable veto was to remove an outside section creating a Commission that would study the impact of potential wastewater dumping from the decommissioned Holtec nuclear energy facility (Section 251). The Legislature can override the Governor’s vetoes with a two-thirds vote.