Governor Baker Unveils Economic Development Proposal

On March 4, Governor Baker unveiled An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth (H. 4529). This comprehensive economic development package represents a solid step toward positioning Massachusetts and its Gateway Cities for strong, equitable, and sustainable growth. The Governor’s bill contains several provisions with the potential to play a particularly powerful role increasing the vitality of Gateway Cities across the state by building on their strengths.  

The Governor also called again for zoning reform and incorporated his Housing Choices bill into the package, which would enable cities and towns to adopt many smart growth policies by simple-majority rather than super-majority. Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states that requires a vote of 2/3 or more for local zoning changes. The Housing Choices bill was reported out of committee in December but has not advanced since, although pressure is building for the Legislature to act on zoning reform this year to address a historic housing crisis. 
 
The Governor’s proposal includes new dollars and better tools for Gateway Cities and regions outside of Metro Boston, including several that were recommended by MACDC.  The bill includes the following key elements:  

  • $25 million to strengthen Gateway City neighborhoods by revitalizing blighted and abandoned homes. Many Gateway Cities still have neighborhoods suffering from the ill-effects of the foreclosure crisis. By helping cities acquire and repair long-vacant one to four-family properties, this program will preserve vital housing stock, increase homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families, and prevent a few problem properties from pulling entire neighborhoods down.  This new program advances recommendations made by a group of Gateway City housing and community development leaders assembled by MassINC and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations in 2019. 

  • $10 million to enable community development financial institutions to reach underserved populations, such as women- and minority-owned businesses, and leverage federal funding to support lending for small businesses;

  • $5 million for a matching grant program to provide capital for micro-businesses and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs looking to start or expand a new business;

  • $50 million for transit-oriented housing for the production of high-density mixed-income affordable housing near transit nodes;

  • $10 million for a competitive grant program for small towns and rural areas for community development and infrastructure projects. 

  • $10 million for sustainable and climate-resilient construction in affordable, multifamily housing developments to better respond to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

  • $40 million for redevelopment of underutilized, blighted or abandoned buildings, including those that need major work to comply with building codes and to become accessible for persons with disabilities; 

  • Potentially tripling from $10 million to $30 million the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) that promotes market rate housing in weak market areas, in addition to expanding the number of communities that may be eligible; and

  • the bill provides MassDevelopment with greater flexibility to support development projects through its successful Transformative Development Initiative (TDI). TDI is a multi-year effort to lend capacity to Gateway City efforts to strategically target areas for revitalization.

In the coming weeks, MACDC will be working with legislators to advance this legislation and make recommendations for additional provisions such as a spot blight eminent domain program and recapitalization of the Massachusetts Food Trust.