By Greg Reibman
There's a glimmer of good news today on the housing front.
After two years of delays, Boston Globe reporter Jon Chesto is reporting that Gov. Charlie Baker's Housing Choice bill may finally be moving forward for a vote on Beacon Hill early next year.
As Chesto explains, Housing Choice "would do one simple thing: Reduce the voting requirement for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level, from a two-thirds threshold to a simple majority."
This means municipalities would still have final say in projects in their community while also preventing a minority of opponents from thwarting a proposal that has majority support; something that happens all too often these days.
And at a time when our business owners tell us that recruiting and retaining workers is one of their biggest challenges, this bill will make it easier for communities like ours to build housing close to our jobs.
But as Chesto also reports, Baker's bill is facing challenges, most notably one being led by the Needham Select Board which is requesting that Needham and 70 other municipalities be exempt from the new law because they're already doing their share building affordable housing by being in compliance with the state's 40B law.
Our chamber shares many common goals with the Needham Select Board and we have a productive working relationship with the town. We applaud Needham's efforts to add hundreds of new units of housing to the town and exceed the 40B threshold. But we respectfully disagree with the board on this. We believe that the Housing Choice bill should move forward unencumbered by exemptions that could stall the ability to build the workforce housing we so desperately need.
Our region's housing crisis threatens our families and our economic vitality. It forces employees to move further and further from jobs, contributing to the worst traffic in the nation and the warming of our planet.
Keeping the bill simple and unencumbered by exemptions is critical towards its passage as well as the region's ability to begin addressing one of our members' most pressing concerns.