Issues Blog

Entries, updates on issue organizing and information, legislative action, and other material related to our Progressive Platform and Legislative Agenda

Fight for Housing Justice & Immigration Justice

On Monday, the House voted on key housing amendments to its economic development bill.

State reps overwhelmingly ignored housing justice activists, voting AGAINST allowing municipalities to impose real estate transfer fees to combat speculation and raise money for affordable housing, AGAINST allowing municipalities to pass rent-stabilizing regulations, and AGAINST making it easier for municipalities to pass inclusionary zoning ordinances.

Some of these state reps -- embarrassingly -- voted against the text of bills they co-sponsored earlier in the session.

Was your representative one of the few who stood up for housing justice? Find out here.

The Senate will be taking up its version of an economic development bill tomorrow, so that means there is another opportunity to fight for housing justice and immigration justice.

Can you call your senators in support of the following amendments? 


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Fight for the Strongest Police Reform Bill

House and Senate Leadership have appointed a conference committee to reconcile their respective bills. The conference committee -- Sen. Brownsberger, Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz, Sen. Tarr, Rep. Cronin, Rep. Gonzalez, and Rep. Whelan -- will work on a consensus bill, which will have to be voted on and then sent to the Governor.

Please urge your legislators and Governor Charlie Baker to support the strongest bill possible.

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Massachusetts House Votes Down Proposals to Help Renters, Promot Affordable Housing

When Governor Charlie Baker sent an economic development bill to the MA Legislature, he included his "Housing Choices" legislation, which had been stalled as a standalone bill. The "Housing Choices" bill addresses one aspect of Massachusetts's affordable housing crisis: the fact that new construction is relatively rare in the suburbs due to the prevalence of single-family zoning. If you can only build one housing unit per lot, it makes it more difficult to respond to a growing population or growing demand. Currently, zoning changes (such as those that would approve multifamily housing construction) require a 2/3 approval from local government. Baker's bill, which the MA House retained in their economic development package, would lower that to a simple majority.

The need for more supply, though, is just one part of the problem. There is no guarantee that the new supply would be affordable, nor that the new supply would not push up rents for current tenants, thus running the risk of displacement. There isn't even a guarantee that any new housing will be built at all (it's a removal of a barrier rather than promise of new construction).

That being said, as an MIT researcher recently noted in CommonWealth Mag, all this means is that we need to think comprehensively when we approach the affordable housing crisis: we do need zoning reform, but we also need stronger protections for existing tenants. Tenant protections will not address the need for supply: only new construction can. Zoning reform will not address displacement: you need tenant protections for that. This was also an essential takeaway of the book Golden Gates by Conor Dougherty on the housing crisis in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the MA House voted down efforts at striking such a balance.

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