Gov. Baker on affordable housing: ‘There’s a wall between the well-off and the up-and-coming’


BOSTON (WPRI) — While climate change and transportation dominated Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday night on Beacon Hill, he also put a focus on the need for more affordable housing.

“For the sake of our communities, our young people, our seniors and our families – let’s find the common ground on housing policy that must be in here somewhere. And let’s get this one done,” he said.

According to Baker, thousands of units of much-needed housing get majority support in their local communities but are never built because current zoning laws require a super-majority vote.

Baker said doing nothing has been hurting families for years and while the state has made progress, it’s not enough.

Courtesy: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston 

“Homeless families are being supported in more appropriate settings, which is why virtually all of the hotels and motels that used to shelter homeless people have been retired,” Baker added. “We are making progress but demand is outpacing supply. The result? Families are forced to rent substandard housing and move further away from jobs. And seniors either move out of face financial ruin.”

Baker says the zoning laws put up a fence instead of building a bridge in the community.

“There’s a wall between the well-off and the up-and-coming,” he said. “They punish families and young people who are not already ‘in the market’ and they make it almost impossible for local communities to do what makes sense for their residents.”

“We talk a lot about the need for greater equity these days,” Baker continued. “But a proposal that removes the single greatest barrier to housing that families can afford has been sitting under review for years.”

Baker stated that while some in the state think the housing production bill goes too far, others say it’s not enough.

“One thing I know for sure: that doing nothing, maintaining the status quo, has been hurting families for years,” he said.

Right next door, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors released new data Wednesday that shows the sale price of a single-family home last year exceeded $280,000 for the first time since the Great Recession.

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