In The People's Blog

On June 27, I joined my colleagues in the Senate to pass comprehensive housing legislation, S.2834the Affordable Homes Act, authorizing $5.4 billion in borrowing and making policy changes with the goal of building new housing, accelerating the rehabilitation of existing housing, reducing barriers to development equitably, and promoting affordable housing. After grappling with more than 300 amendments, we passed the legislation unanimously. 

Thank you to everyone who emailed or called with advocacy on this legislation. We heard from more than 400 of you, and we wrote to you before the bill was debated summarizing our work on housing accessibility and affordability as well as the changes that we had already won together that were included in the bill that was released from committee.

When the Senate attempted to debate the bill last Thursday, Republicans used a procedural motion called “laying the bill on the table” to prevent debate, and I took that opportunity to record a video, which you can watch here

I spent most of Thursday’s debate fighting hard on the amendments I filed. When the dust settled, I was able to secure five major amendments:

Ensuring Regional Equity in Funding 

The bill authorizes funds for a number of vital housing programs. Many of the funding authorizations included a directive that the funds be awarded in a manner that promotes geographic equity which was a focus of mine in the lead up to the debate. This language ensures that western and north central Massachusetts receive their fair share of funding from the various programs authorized in the bill.  

My amendment adds similar language requiring geographic equity in the distribution of funding to additional programs in the bill, including programs the HousingWorks Infrastructure program and a housing program for mid-sized communities.

Rural and Small Town Housing 

The legislation includes a new, innovative $50 million program targeted directly at rural and small town housing. The program was requested by the Western Mass Housing Coalition, the Rural Policy Advisory Commission, and me. 

My amendment allows funds from the program to be used for both rental and homeownership programs designed to expand access to affordable housing, and allows funding to be used for water wells in addition to the homes built under the program.

Annual Report on Geographic Equity in Housing Funding  

Currently the state does not track the distribution of housing funding throughout the different regions of the Commonwealth.

My amendment directs the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to annually prepare a public report on the geographic distribution of housing assistance funding. The report will include the number of housing units produced with assistance from the Commonwealth in each municipality and in each county. The report will also include data on the types of housing units produced, including affordability, housing type, total state assistance amount, and the total cost per unit. The data must be publicly available on the state’s website.

Office of Livable Communities and Community Services Leadership

The legislation establishes a new Office of Livable Communities and Community Services which will assist rural communities looking to preserve and expand affordable housing opportunities. 

My amendment directs that the office be led by an undersecretary who reports directly to the Secretary of the Executive of Housing and Livable Communities.

Housing Commission Membership

The bill created a commission on housing affordability.

My amendment added a seat to that commission focused on racial equity.

In addition to the above policy amendments, I also secured bonding authorizations for four housing projects in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district. 

  • $500,000 for the design and construction of solar energy systems and development at the Amherst Community Homes project of Valley Community Development
  • $2,000,000 for the East Street and the Belchertown Road affordable housing projects in Amherst to be developed by Way Finders
  • $1,000,000 for housing development or redevelopment efforts in Leverett
  • $1,470,000 for land acquisition, construction and development of affordable housing by Valley Community Land Trust, Inc. in Franklin County

A major focus of the debate was the issues surrounding a real estate transfer fee. I filed Amendment 242 to implement a fee using a county median sales price. While that amendment did not prevail, I spoke to it on the Senate floor during debate. Watch my remarks here

Separate versions having passed the Senate and the House of Representatives, the two branches will now reconcile the differences. 

Below is a summary of the legislation that passed. 

Read on. 


Creating and Repairing Public Housing

The Affordable Homes Act provides $2.2 billion for repairs, rehabilitation, and renovation across the 43,000 units of state-aided public housing. This significant investment ensures that the state’s public housing infrastructure remains safe, modern, and sustainable, so it can continue providing quality living conditions for thousands of families.

To ensure that the Commonwealth makes strides towards its climate goals as it creates housing, $150 million of the funding for public housing is specifically allocated to making energy efficient upgrades.

Spurring Affordable Housing Units

A further $425 million will go to the Housing Stabilization and Investment Trust fund, working with municipalities, non-profits, and developers to support housing preservation, new construction, and rehabilitation projects for affordable rental units. This will help the longevity and sustainability of affordable housing stock, addressing both immediate needs and long-term housing solutions.

It additionally adds $800 million into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create and preserve housing for households with an income at or below 110 percent of area median income, helping to bridge the gap between the high cost of housing and what many families can afford.

Building Sustainably

This bond bill includes $275 million for innovative, sustainable, and green housing initiatives. By finding new ways to build that don’t have such a detrimental environmental impact, these initiatives will help pave the way for a greener housing portfolio in Massachusetts and will be an important part of the state’s response to the climate crisis.

Supporting First-Time Homebuyers in Gateway Cities

The Senate Affordable Homes Act authorizes $200 million for the CommonWealth Builder program to further the production of housing in gateway cities for first-time homebuyers. This initiative supports economic development in these cities, helping families achieve homeownership and contributing to the revitalization of urban areas.

The legislation also includes $50 million for MassDreams, a program that provides down payment and closing cost grants to first-time homebuyers who meet the program’s eligibility criteria and who currently live in one of the 29 communities that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maintaining Essential Infrastructure

The bill provides $375 million for HousingWorks, a program that awards grants to municipalities and other public entities for a variety of infrastructure-related support. Improving essential infrastructure supports the health and safety of residents and the feasibility of new housing projects.

Of this amount, $100 million will be dedicated to addressing water, sewer, and septic challenges tied to housing developments, and $100 million will help incentivize best practices in communities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and are spending a high percentage of those funds on housing, as well as  MBTA communities that are going beyond the minimum requirements set forth in the MBTA zoning law passed in 2021. Communities that have been proactive in creating transit-oriented development, which reduces traffic congestion and promotes sustainable urban growth, will be eligible.

Addressing Regional Equity

The legislation includes $150 million in dedicated funds to address the unique housing needs of rural towns, seasonal communities, and mid-sized communities. This ensures that all areas of the state, regardless of size or location, have the resources to meet their specific housing challenges.

The Senate’s Affordable Homes Act also contains multiple policy proposals to go hand in hand with the new authorizations.

Protecting Tenants from Broker Fees

By requiring that real estate brokers’ fees be paid solely by the party that contracted with them, this legislation ensures that buyers are not burdened with unexpected and extraordinary costs. It also promotes transparency and fairness in real estate transactions.

Eviction Record Sealing

The bill introduces a process for tenants to seal their eviction records in cases of no-fault evictions and other limited scenarios. This policy protects vulnerable tenants from the long-term stigma of eviction records, enhancing their ability to secure future housing and promoting housing stability.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

The legislation prohibits the banning or unreasonable restriction of ADUs in single-family residential zones, promoting flexible housing options. This policy enables homeowners to create additional living spaces, increases housing supply and provides more affordable rental options within established neighborhoods.

Homeownership Tax Credit

This new tax credit will be available for the production of homeownership units for households that make up to 120 per cent of the area median income, incentivizing housing production and promoting homeownership opportunities.

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