Massachusetts Senate introduces its version of a key housing bill
Massachusetts Senate introduces its version of a key housing bill

The Massachusetts Senate introduced its version of a comprehensive housing bill on Monday, following similar proposals from Governor Maura Healey and the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Parliamentarians hope to pass a compromise version of the bill and get it to Healey’s desk before the end of Parliament’s official session on July 31, as the state continues to grapple with rising housing costs.

The bill’s introduction comes after Governor Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced Monday that the state would provide $15 million in funding to help Boston convert large office buildings into housing.

Wu has championed the conversions to create more living space after some office buildings failed to refill with customers during the pandemic. Due to the complexity of the projects, the conversions can often be costly.

State funding would be up to $215,000 per affordable unit, with a cap of $4 million per project. The city’s application deadline for the program is extended to Dec. 31.

The Senate’s $5.2 billion housing bond bill did not include a plan backed by Healey and Wu that would allow cities and towns to impose a fee on the sale of luxury homes. The House version of the bill also excludes that proposal, which has been supported by housing activists.

Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, praised Senate leadership for rejecting the proposal. He said lawmakers need to prioritize measures that “reduce barriers to housing construction, which in turn will help spur home construction at all price points.”

Proposals in the Senate bill also include allocating $800 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create and maintain affordable housing for households earning no more than 110 percent of the area median income.

The bill also provides $425 million in bonds to support housing preservation, new construction and rehabilitation.

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said the Senate bill should help boost manufacturing and maintain and improve access to housing.

The bill would also establish the Fair Housing Office, whose goal would be to eliminate discrimination in the housing market and combat the consequences of decades of racially motivated housing policies, she said.

“The bill maintains the Senate’s commitment to regional equity by providing separate authority for programs for rural areas and small towns, midsize communities, seasonal communities, and more,” Spilka and other leading Senate Democrats said in a joint statement.

The House bill would provide $6.5 billion in bond authorizations, tax credits and policy initiatives to increase housing construction, streamline the construction of affordable housing and preserve existing public housing in Massachusetts.

The Senate is scheduled to debate the bill on Thursday.

By Aurora