BOSTON, MA-- Representative Andy X. Vargas testified yesterday before the Joint Committee on Housing in support of H.1288 An Act Relative to Housing Reform. The bill, filed by Housing Committee Chairman Kevin Honan and Rep. Vargas, is designed to address the growing housing crisis in Massachusetts.
For the last three decades, per year housing production in the state has fallen to less than half the level of the previous three decades. Meanwhile, housing prices have increased at a faster rate than wages.
“This crisis is a direct result of a low supply of housing combined with a high demand for housing. In turn, housing prices are growing so sharply that a minimum wage worker would have to work an unrealistic 84 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom rental at fair market value. That’s unacceptable,”said Rep. Vargas.
Experts point to Massachusetts's zoning laws as a primary driver of the commonwealth’s low level of housing stock. Massachusetts is currently one of the only states in the country, and the only one in New England, that requires a supermajority of votes by a legislative body to enact zoning reforms. This means that a minority of local legislators are able to terminate housing developments projects, even in communities that may desperately need them.
“We have heard countless examples from across the Commonwealth of proposed housing developments that cleared the simple majority hurdle, but failed by one or two votes because of this onerous supermajority requirement,” said Chairman Honan. “The proposed changes to the state’s zoning law within this bill make it easier for housing projects that are appropriate for their respective communities to be built.”
The Honan/Vargas bill would allow local legislative bodies to change zoning laws through a simple majority vote. The bill would also set a housing production goal of 427,000 new units by 2040, with an affordability sub-goal of 20% affordable – with 10% reserved for low income. Additionally, it would encourage transit oriented developments and include language to deter frivolous lawsuits against housing developments.
“The housing crisis is our reality, but if we pass this bill, people across the Commonwealth will have greater access to affordable and stable homes, exclusionary zoning will be less prevalent and the American dream more possible,” said Rep. Vargas.