On January 14 2021, standing at a dangerous precipice, Massachusetts took a significant step forward with the signing of the economic development bill including Housing Choice, one of MAR’s top advocacy priorities. For years, anti-development policies have eroded our housing supply and increased costs. We are left with some of the oldest housing stock in the country and a housing affordability and availability crisis. Housing Choice will help ease zoning restrictions on several smart-growth policies, providing desperately needed housing development opportunities in Massachusetts. Increasing development will result in more housing availability and reduced housing costs.
However, the bill that was sent to the Governor took one step forward and two steps back by creating a so-called “Right of First Refusal,” a policy we opposed in the Legislature and successfully urged the Governor to veto. The theory underlying this policy is to empower renters to purchase their building thereby preserving its affordability, something they can currently do without a right-of-first-refusal law. Instead, this policy would stifle the state’s greatest housing need, multifamily development by increasing costs and adding significant burdens and uncertainty to multifamily housing transactions.
Enacting the economic development bill with both Housing Choice and a right of first refusal would, at best, keep us on a dangerous path. The enactment and veto of this problematic provision sets the state on track to address its housing crisis and bounce back faster from economic challenges caused by the pandemic.