Lobbying on Housing Bill Has Tied House’s Hands, DeLeo Says
By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- With time running out, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday that a housing production bill was “not at all” dead for the session, but said two lobbying organizations representing commercial developers and city and town governments could “severely” limit the scope of that legislation.
With about a week remaining of formal sessions, neither the House nor the Senate have taken up legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker to change zoning laws and spur housing growth around the state. But DeLeo said Monday it is not yet time to rule out action this two-year session, which ends on July 31.
While not ruling out a vote in the coming days, the speaker said it would be difficult to go beyond a bill filed by Baker that has the support of NAIOP, which represents commercial developers, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Those two groups are often at odds on matters of local control over real estate development, but they both back the bill that would lessen the threshold for support on local boards for developments to make zoning changes to facilitate development.
“With NAIOP and with the MMA in particular, they’ve made an agreement that the bill that was filed by the governor is the bill they are supporting, and that they will not support on either side any idea about any amendments to that legislation, so that really severely limits us in terms of those folks who want to file something further,” DeLeo told reporters on Monday after meeting with Baker and Senate President Harriette Chandler.
He said, “The question we have now is if amendments are offered, what’s going to happen with those amendments? So that’s still a huge question mark.”
The governor’s bill is pending before the House Committee on Ways and Means. Baker said there is unanimity about the need to change the way the state regulates housing production.
“I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t think we need to do something about our housing policy in this building or outside it,” Baker told reporters outside his State House office. “Everybody talks about the fact that we do not create enough new units of housing and that this has been a problem for decades. The debate has always come down to a variety of opinions about solutions on this.”
The governor praised lawmakers for passing a bill financing state housing production programs, but he said more needs to be done.
“There’s more to this issue than just state money. We’ve gotta come up with a mechanism to create more housing,” Baker said.
In a joint statement last month, NAIOP, the MMA, The Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors said, “This narrowly tailored bill advances the state’s need for housing while respecting the important role municipalities play in determining whether new housing is built. It does so by eliminating one barrier to housing production - the need for a supermajority vote of Town Meeting or a city council to approve zoning changes for housing and smart growth planning.”
July 31 is the last day that the House and Senate can take a roll call vote under the joint rules.