The Massachusetts House has cleared the way for a $1.7 billion housing bonding bill that’s slated to be brought to the floor Wednesday, giving it initial approval after moving it without objection from the Ways and Means Committee.
The House Ways and Means Committee polled its members on the bill (H 3925) over the weekend, and said Monday morning that 28 members had voted to give the bill a favorable report, none voted to give it a negative report and two members reserved their voting rights.
During an informal session Monday morning, the House adopted a Ways and Means Committee version of the bill (H 4134) as an amendment then ordered the bill to a third reading, the first of three votes of approval the House must take to pass a bill.
Along with other authorizations for affordable housing, the bill includes $600 million for the modernization of public housing, $400 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and $45 million for the development of facilities for early education and out-of-school programs.
Gov. Charlie Baker filed a $1.3 billion borrowing bill in April. The version that cleared the House Bonding, Housing and Ways and Means committees clocks in at a total of $1.7 billion.
While the state’s long-term debt load is raised as a concern by credit rating agencies, borrowing bills typically win widespread, bipartisan support, once they reach the floors of either branch. Lawmakers over the years have authorized far more borrowing than the state can afford, leaving actual debt service management to the executive branch.
Earlier this month, acting Senate President Harriette Chandler vaulted housing into the top tier of priorities in the Senate this session, warning that Massachusetts is at risk of losing its reputation as a national leader unless it addresses its longstanding housing affordability problem.
Meanwhile, housing advocates from the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, drawing attention to the importance of the bond bill, have said the recently-signed federal tax law will limit investment in affordable housing by private investors because the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit will be less desirable now that the corporate tax rate has dropped from 35 percent to 21 percent.
On Monday, the advocacy organization Children’s HealthWatch reported that housing instability has negative effects on the health of children and their caregivers. Children’s HealthWatch said that “unstable housing circumstances” like being behind on rent, moving more than twice within 12 months or being homeless “were associated with increased odds of adverse health outcomes, such as poor caregiver health, poor child health, maternal depressive symptoms, and food and energy insecurity, when compared to families with stable housing.”
“Asking questions specific to all three circumstances can help providers [assess] both individual and community health and housing needs, and identify families who are at risk of poor health associated with housing instability,” Dr. Megan Sandel, principal investigator at Children’s HealthWatch, said in a statement.
The House was expected to discuss the housing bond bill in a caucus on Tuesday afternoon and then bring it to the floor for debate and a vote on Wednesday.