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Advocating for Legislation: Housing Bond Bill priorities of the Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition
Motels have long had the right idea: A brightly illuminated “Vacancy” or “NO Vacancy” sign immediately lets travelers know if there’s rest within reach or miles to go before they sleep.
But when an entire region has “NO Vacancy”? When demand for housing greatly exceeds supply in every city and town? Things are not clear. There’s no glowing sign. There’s just struggle after struggle, as we see each day, among those who want to stay. Who don’t want to hit the road and relocate. But who can’t find affordable housing.
The only way forward? Build our way forward. The upcoming Housing Bond Bill can help us do just that. Here are the house priorities of the Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition, a collaboration of more than 50 municipalities and organizations dedicated to advancing state policy to address our region’s housing needs.
Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition: Housing Bond Bill Priorities
The Housing Bond Bill, which is updated every five years, includes major funding for programs that support development projects and serve working families, older adults, and people with disabilities. It comes at a key moment when more housing development is needed across the state, and creates an opportunity for significant, meaningful investment in addressing housing needs in western Massachusetts.
By the numbers: Since 2018, the current housing bond bill has provided at least $78 million to nearly 110 development projects in western Massachusetts. The magic of these funds is that, in addition to creating hundreds of new affordable units, they also contribute to regional economic growth, such as by generating jobs and tax revenue.
The Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition has identified two key priorities to advance in the upcoming Housing Bond Bill (read the full details here):
- Invest in increasing housing supply—via the most flexible and effective programs to accelerate much needed housing development and help meet the region’s housing supply gap (projected to reach 19,000 by 2025 in the Pioneer Valley alone).
- Ensure state programs meet regional needs, as the housing challenges in western Massachusetts merit tailored solutions to most effectively leverage state investments. This includes working in a wide range of settings (urban, suburban, rural) and supporting construction in a market where incomes and rents are lower than other parts of the state, but construction and operating costs are just as high.
Which programs most effectively and flexibly serve our area? Based on our knowledge of the region, the programs below provide multiple solutions to address our complex housing crisis and boost housing supply. For each, we strongly advocate for increasing the total amount of funding and the maximum amount of funding allowed (subsidy cap) for each project or unit.
- Affordable Housing Trust Fund—a flexible tool to create and preserve affordable housing
- Housing Stabilization Fund—helps acquire and rehabilitate distressed housing
- Housing Innovations Fund—supports alternative forms of rental housing, such as transitional or permanent housing for formerly homeless households
- Facilities Consolidation Fund—supports community-based housing for people with a range of disabilities
- Workforce Housing Initiative—funds rental housing that’s affordable for working families.
We also strongly support the Zero Carbon Renovation Fund, as our housing stock is some of the oldest in the state and the country, and the proposed increase to the Massachusetts State Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which encourages private investment in the development of affordable housing. Over the past five years, state LIHTC funding contributed nearly $20 million toward 14 housing development projects in our region.
On behalf of the people we serve, our communities, and the region, we urge our leaders to invest more in housing—to inspire greater stability for individuals and families and stronger and more thriving communities for all.