As we enter a new year and a new decade, MACDC is preparing for one of the busiest and hopefully most impactful policy years in recent memory. The Massachusetts state legislature has seven months before the session ends on July 31 and a wide array of housing and community development priorities are on the docket. MACDC and its members will be focused on these nine priorities:
- Major new revenue for housing and climate investments: MACDC is a founding member of the HERO Coalition – Housing and Environmental Revenue Opportunities – which is comprised of housing, climate, faith-based, labor, and social justice groups working together to secure a major new revenue stream to support investments in affordable housing, and climate resiliency and mitigation. Our proposal is to double the deeds excise tax and dedicate 50% (approx. $150 million/yr.) to housing and 50% to climate. This could be the biggest new investment in housing in decades and lay the foundation for more collaboration among housing, climate, and social justice advocates. MACDC is also actively supporting state legislation that would empower cities and towns to adopt their own, local transfer tax to generate new revenue for affordable housing.
- Neighborhood Stabilization: MACDC continues to work with MassINC, the Gateway Cities Caucus, and others to enact legislation to accelerate the renovation of vacant and blighted homes in weaker market areas of the state. This effort also includes launching the new Neighborhood Stabilization Hub at MassHousing thanks to funding we secured in the FY 20 budget.
- Land Use and Zoning: MACDC is actively working with many others to help secure passage of Housing Choice legislation that would lower the threshold for cities and towns seeking to enact smart zoning and land use practices.
- Economic Development: MACDC will be advocating for:
- An increase in funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance program from $3 million to $4 million per year. This program now funds 47 CDCs, CDFIs and other community-based organizations all of whom are helping underserved entrepreneurs launch and grow small businesses;
- Funds to provide capital grants to CDFIs that offer small business loans, a program we helped launch a few years ago.
- New capital funding to support the Mass Food Trust, a program administered on behalf of the state by Franklin County CDC and LEAF, which provides grants and loans to expand access to healthy foods in lower-income communities.
- Lead Poisoning Prevention: We are making a major effort this year to recapitalize the highly successful Get the Lead Out program administered by MassHousing and the Department of Housing and Community Development. The program has helped thousands of families and children since its inception 25 years ago, but it is now dangerously close to running out of money. The state recently adopted new regulations that recognize that lead poisoning is even more dangerous than previously understood, so we must fully fund this vital public health program.
- City of Boston Home Rule Petition on Linkage and Inclusionary Development: We are working closely with Mayor Marty Walsh to secure legislative passage of the City’s home rule petition that would allow it to make modifications to these two successful programs, without seeking prior approval from the state legislature.
- Tenant protections: MACDC is supporting legislation to create a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction as well as legislation that would enable tenants to band together to buy their own buildings when they are put on the market.
- Closing the Racial Homeownership Gap: We will be working closely this year with MassHousing and DHCD to roll out new initiatives to help expand homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers in general and people of color specifically. These efforts include the new $60 million homeownership development funding initiative announced by Governor Baker last year, as well as a new down payment assistance program and potentially other initiatives.
- Rural Policy: In October 2019, the MA Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC) released its Rural Policy Plan for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This Plan suggests policy recommendations related to the unique issues and challenges faced by rural communities across the Commonwealth and addresses 14 focus areas that were identified through listening sessions held across the state in late 2018. MACDC will work with the members of the RPAC and rural Regional Planning Agencies in its efforts to engage legislative and administration stakeholders to fulfill and implement the Plan recommendations, in particular the creation of an Office of Rural Policy.
MACDC cannot make progress on such a robust and diverse agenda without many partners. We are grateful for our allies and partners in the legislature; the Baker-Polito Administration who share many of these goals; our coalition partners at other advocacy organizations; and of course, our members who take the time to join us in advocating for these proposals. Our 2020 policy campaigns will include our annual “Doughnuts with your Delegation” campaign in February and March when our members will meet with their legislators in their home districts and our Annual Lobby Day on April 28, 2020 at the State House. It will also include countless meetings, phone calls, letters, and other communications over the next seven months.
2020 offers the opportunity to make community development history here in Massachusetts. Let’s make it happen!