Massachusetts announces a “common vision” for housing, transportation, and the environment

Boston skyline

In fiscally challenging times, states can achieve more when their agencies work together toward common goals. Massachusetts is doing exactly that.

Yesterday at the Multi-Family Housing Summit in Boston, three members of Governor Deval Patrick’s Cabinet announced their common vision for growth in Massachusetts. The vision highlights the housing, transportation, and environment agencies’ strong commitment to plan ahead for future growth and the Commonwealth’s Sustainable Development Principles. The goals are to:

  • Build 10,000 multi-family homes a year through 2020, particularly near transit, city/town centers and employment centers;
  • Shift the way we travel, by tripling the share of travel by bicycling, transit and walking; and
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from the 1990 levels by 2020.

“We will achieve [the vision] only if we work together,” Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey said during the Multi-Family Housing Summit where the announcement was made. Understanding the key connections between housing, economic development, transportation, environmental protection, and land use, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, whose agency hosted the Summit, said, “This [vision] is a pledge that we will think about each others agencies throughout our work.”

The 10,000 multi-family housing production goal was announced in November 2012 by Gov. Patrick as an outcome of the Governors’ Institute on Community Design workshop, which was held that summer.

In addition to the partnership, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development announced the formation of the Multi-Family Housing Advisory Committee to build broader support for multi-family housing and provide a structured forum for assessing and recommending new policies. The Advisory Committee will consist of 28 members, representing municipal and regional officials, members of the business and development community and non-profit and advocacy organizations, and will be staffed by state and quasi-public agencies. The formation of the Committee was also a recommendation made by the Governors’ Institute.

Similar stakeholder groups attended yesterday’s Multi-Family Housing Summit to discuss tangible strategies in achieving the 10,000 multi-family housing production goal. Bill Fulton, Director of the Governors’ Institute, presented on the recommendations that GICD provided in 2012 and facilitated the discussion.

The Governors’ Institute’s technical assistance is made possible and guided by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnerships promotes better coordination between housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to create more prosperous and vibrant communities.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick introduces new workforce housing initiatives, adopts GICD recommendations

In July 2012, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design met with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his Administration to identify policies and tools to meet the State’s housing needs. Last week, Governor Patrick announced an ambitious housing policy initiative that builds on those strategies.

Speaking before an audience of almost 1,000 people at a statewide housing and community development conference in Worcester, MA on November 13, 2012, Governor Patrick announced a new statewide housing production goal of 10,000 multifamily units in the Commonwealth each year, and a new policy initiative called “Compact Neighborhoods.”

“To meet the needs of our workforce we need more housing for moderate- and middle-income families,” Governor Patrick said at the event. “We need more multi-family homes, rental apartments, and starter homes and we need these homes near jobs, near transit, and near city and town centers.”

“By 2020 across the state, we should see 80,000 new multi-family units. We can do this. In fact, we have to do this.”
– Governor Deval Patrick

The goal to build 10,000 new multifamily units each year, a first-of-its-kind housing production goal, is ambitious. But Governor Patrick and his Administration are determined to achieve this goal. By producing more housing that is affordable to moderate- and middle-income households—or “workforce housing”—that is reasonably dense and located near transit stations, employment and downtown centers, the Patrick Administration’s efforts will help build and retain a young and innovative workforce within the Commonwealth and strengthen the State’s economic competitiveness.

In addition to the housing production goal, Governor Patrick announced a new policy initiative called the Compact Neighborhoods program. The program provides additional incentives that encourage municipalities to identify as-of-right zoning districts (Compact Neighborhoods) and develop affordable and reasonably dense housing for working families near transit and town centers. Municipalities with Compact Neighborhoods can receive priority consideration for other state discretionary funding, including the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. Other funding programs will be considered this year to include a similar preference. The Compact Neighborhoods program complements Chapter 40R, the Commonwealth’s Smart Growth Overlay District Statute, by promoting neighborhoods with affordable housing choices near jobs and transit.

Both the housing production goal and the Compact Neighborhood program were among recommendations made by the Governors’ Institute to the Patrick Administration in a report last month, and support Governor Patrick’s comprehensive economic development plan. The Governors’ Institute has been working with the Patrick-Murray Administration on workforce housing policy since last spring. Workforce housing is a major issue in maintaining the Commonwealth’s economic competitiveness. Even though Massachusetts is the epicenter of the nation’s higher education system—350,000 students attend college or graduate school in the Boston area alone—the Commonwealth is often unable to retain this skilled young talent because of a shortage of affordable homes and lack of housing choices.

In July, the Governors’ Institute convened a high-level workshop that included Governor Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, several cabinet members, agency directors, and key stakeholders, such as local officials, business leaders, and housing organizations, as well as the Governors’ Institute’s nationally renowned housing, transportation, and real estate experts, to discuss policy ideas on workforce housing. Subsequently, the Governors’ Institute provided a set of recommendations to guide the Administration in strengthening its housing initiatives.

The Governors’ Institute’s technical assistance is made possible and guided by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnerships promotes better coordination between housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to create more prosperous and vibrant communities. The Patrick Administration’s new initiatives are a great example of policies and initiatives that the Partnership encourages across the country.