Newton-Needham Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman testified alongside other business leaders before the Joint Committee on Housing at the State House on May 14, in support of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Housing Choice bill. The legislation filed by Baker in February calls for targeted zoning reform to advance new housing production. Here is a transcript of Reibman’s remarks.
"My name is Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber, and I am here speaking on behalf of the employers across Greater Boston’s inner suburbs in support of H 3507.
"Our employers are facing a crisis.
"It’s not that they don’t have enough customers.
"It’s not that they don’t make enough sales.
"It’s that they can’t find enough employees to sustain their operations.
"Our businesses are having trouble filling everything from high-salary tech and life sciences jobs to hourly workers for hotels and restaurants. It’s a regional problem but an especially challenging one for our inner suburban communities because our housing shortage – combined with inadequate public transportation traffic -- make it especially difficult for our workers to live anywhere near our jobs.
"Our businesses say finding and keeping workers has become a full-blown crisis. In some instances, we’ve even seen businesses curtail hours, close or move because of this worker shortage.
"In a survey conducted by the chamber, 61% of our members said “attracting and retaining workers” is their No. 1 business challenge.
"Workforce worries were even more pronounced for the market’s largest employers: 89% of Newton and Needham businesses with 100 or more employees saying staffing will be critical to their 2019 success.
"Governor Baker’s Housing Choice Bill would give our municipalities more control over their own decisions.Right now, we have significant housing projects before Newton’s City Council that have the likely support of the majority of city councilors. In Newton’s last several local elections, pro-housing candidates decisively defeated opponents.
'But these projects may never be built because of minority opposition.
"And these scenarios exist across the commonwealth.
"This stalemate is harming our employers. It’s making it impossible for millennials to work here. It’s making it impossible for our seniors to downsize. It’s holding back our economic growth.It’s imperiling our ability to keep growing.
'Please give our local city councils and our town meetings the ability to make decisions about housing projects based on a majority vote. Please take away the ability allow a minority faction to stymie our ability to make smart decisions that have majority support.
"Please give our communities control over their future."
Click here to learn more. Watch the video below to see local employers discussing the region’s hiring crisis and workforce housing needs.