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Pass the HERO Act

New bill to secure funding for housing and climate programs

Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Nika Elugardo

In Massachusetts, the crises of climate change and affordable housing continue to substantially worsen. Over the past two years, the Baker-Polito administration and the Legislature have taken action to combat global warming and increase housing production through the Next Generation Roadmap and Housing Choice legislation. Both laws recognized that unless communities took direct action to tackle both challenges, Massachusetts is unlikely to make major progress in realizing a society where future generations can survive the climate and have a place to live.

We believe that the Housing and Revenue Opportunities Act (HERO) will provide a significant boost of investments to cities and towns seeking to make their neighborhoods more climate-resilient, and where all residents of a community can live. Tackling the climate and housing crises requires political will and public investment, and the HERO bill completes this function by raising approximately $300 million a year in new revenue and helping move municipal officials to take bolder action on both policy fronts. The legislation will double the Deeds Excise Fee on commercial and residential real estate transactions, raising a total of $300 million a year in new revenue, split evenly to further climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts as well as affordable housing initiatives across Massachusetts.

It is worth noting that the Deeds Excise Fee has remained flat at $4.56 per $1000 since 1989, and is one of the lowest in the Northeast. Even doubling the fee to $9.12 per $1000 would still keep it among the lowest in the New England region. In the districts that we represent, we know that current investments in climate resiliency and affordable housing bear fruit. In Acton, an $8 million grant will pay for an affordable, 31-unit, senior housing complex. Acton-Boxborough Regional High School will be receiving a $2 million MassCEC grant for battery storage. In Jamaica Plain, Boston’s Mayor Michelle Wu announced Bikes Not Bombs as Catalyst Grants recipients for Green Job and Mobility Training. The grants will help connect local youth with career opportunities in the green economy. This ties in with the city’s push for more bicycle infrastructure, including plans with the Department of Conservation and Recreation in making bike lanes on the Arborway Parkway within Jamaica Plain safer.

Unfortunately, for every climate and housing project that does get funded, many more face delays of three, four, five years, despite the urgency of where we are now. On the housing front, each year the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has to inform municipalities that the affordable housing development they’ve applied for a state grant for will have to wait for next year. The same goes for climate resiliency projects, including solar roofs on school buildings, flood control, shelters for heatwaves, EV charger installations, and projects that make Town Halls more energy efficient. Without a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing and climate resiliency, Massachusetts communities will not just be unable to fund the projects that their City Councils, Select Boards, volunteer energy and housing committees, and advocates are pushing for, but it will be harder to build the political will to make further advances on energy and housing policies, including at the state level.

We need to adapt our existing infrastructure to the realities of the climate crisis. We don’t have enough housing production and we are not adequately preserving the housing we do have, nor are we properly adapting to climate change by decarbonizing homes. We need to build and preserve our housing for all the people of Massachusetts — the young families, our senior citizens, and those in between — in a way that will sustain us for generations to come.

Jamie Eldridge represents the Middlesex and Worcester district in the state Senate. Nika Elugardo represents the 15th Suffolk District in the state House.

affordable housing, climate change, Housing and Revenue Opportunities Act, opinion