Housing Bill Update: What’s in and out as it moves to the Senate

By Jesse Kanson-Benanav

Ever since Governor Maura Healey filed the Affordable Homes Act back in October of 2023, there has been much discussion and speculation as to how the legislature would respond. On Monday, June 3rd we got our first glimpse, when the House Ways and Means Committee released their first draft of their version of the bill. Then, further clarity, as the full House passed a slightly modified version that next Wednesday, June 5th. 

In terms of structure, the House’s bill is the same as the Governor’s. It is a 5-year spending authorization plan that also includes several policy (non-spending) related items. However, the House’s bill is nearly 200 pages long, so I’ve summarized below some of the highlights and key differences between it and the Governor’s version. 

What’s In and What’s Out

  1. Accessory Dwelling Units: The House Affordable Homes Act adopted nearly the exact same language legalizing ADUs by-right statewide as proposed by the Governor. The only difference is that the House’s version requires a special permit for any homeowner that wants to build an additional ADU beyond the first.
  2. Capital Spending: The House authorized more than $2 billion more in spending than the Governor, bringing the total authorization of the House bill to $6.2 billion over 5 years. While this is a massive increase over the Governor’s $4.1 billion bill, it is important to remember that this is just an authorization. The state can still only borrow as much as it can afford to pay in debt service each year.  
  3. Real Estate Transfer Fee: Unlike the Governor, the House did not include a local-option real estate transfer fee in its bill. The policy proposed by the Governor would have allowed cities and towns to adopt a transfer fee between 0.5% and 2% to be paid by the seller of a property on the portion of the sale over $1 million, or the county median home sales price, whichever is greater.
  4. Inclusionary Zoning: Included in AHMA’s priority bill, “An Act to Promote Yes in My Backyard” and in the Governor’s Affordable Homes Act is a provision that would have made it easier for cities and towns to adopt an inclusionary zoning ordinance that does not unduly restrict housing production. This section was left out of the House’s Affordable Homes Act.

AHMA’s Priorities

While there are several items in both bills that we support, AHMA’s top priority remains passing an Accessory Dwelling Units provision that legalizes them by-right statewide. We are currently working with legislators in both chambers to ensure the strongest possible provision is included in the final version. 

What Comes Next

Now that a bill has been passed in the House it is on to the Senate. Just like the House, the Senate will draft, debate, amend, and pass their own version of the Affordable Homes Act. We do not know exactly when the Senate will introduce their version, but we expect it soon. 

Once the Senate passes a bill, it will head to the conference committee where members from the House and Senate will hash out any differences between the bills before producing a final version to be voted on again before being sent to the Governor for her signature. As a reminder, the legislative session ends on July 31st, so we are quickly approaching the deadline. 

Lastly, before closing, I want to thank all of you again for your continued support of AHMA. Your support and advocacy has been critical to getting to where we are today – on the cusp of passing one of the most important pieces of housing legislation in Massachusetts’ history. I am optimistic that my next blog post will be in celebration of a final bill that includes historic investments into our state’s housing program and a strong ADU provision that makes readily available this critically important housing type to residents across the Commonwealth.

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