Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: June 12, 2023 Editorial

Editorial: Housing push needs local cooperation

Massachusetts needs housing. A lot of it, and quickly. As one of her main efforts to alleviate the increasingly unaffordable cost of buying and renting housing, Gov. Maura Healey has prioritized building new homes throughout Mass. A key player in Healey’s initiative is former Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus, who on June 1 was sworn in as state's first Cabinet-level housing secretary in three decades. Healey created the position and the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to address a housing situation where the median price of a single-family home in the state now exceeds $600,000, according to the Warren Group.

Augustus said his mantra to address the crisis will be “More, faster.” While a number of factors impact the price of real estate, having more units come online will work to satiate some of the demand and, at least in theory, put downward pressure on rising prices. Unfortunately, building a significant amount of new housing has proven to be an uphill battle.

Perhaps the most entrenched obstacle to new developments has been resistance by individual communities and citizen groups. This resistance is fiercest for larger-scale multifamily housing proposals, particularly ones with affordable housing. As WBJ Real Estate Insider Timothy Doyle writes in his feature column Real Estate Insider: As the State seeks to increase housing construction, some towns pump the brakes, elected officials and residents have opposed developments for any number of reasons, but the most common is they will change the community’s character and put a strain on limited resources. Such efforts were successful in Millbury and Framingham in placing a moratorium on multifamily development, and similar sentiment caused Holden to fail to comply with a law requiring multifamily developments in MBTA communities.

During his eight-year tenure as Worcester city manager, Augustus successfully pushed through major projects by getting just enough support from key business and community leaders, such as with the CitySquare downtown redevelopment and the $160-million Polar Park baseball stadium. It’ll be interesting to watch him attempt to do this on a statewide level, having to convince individual communities of the benefits of allowing more housing within their borders. While no initiative will ever receive the full support of a community, Augustus will need a diplomatic approach, as NIMBY concerns shouldn't be overcome simply by ramming projects through the system. He will need to build local buy-in.

The state government is showing a willingness to use the stick to spur more housing construction, as Attorney General Andrea Campbell has warned MBTA communities like Holden they may face civil action over their resistance to multifamily housing. The stick can be an effective tool to accomplish key goals, but we prefer they mix in the carrots. Local officials and residents need to understand the need for more housing – particularly affordable multifamily housing – and how it can improve their lives and the overall health of the state’s economy and communities. Convincing them won’t be an easy task, as resistance to new projects runs deep. Still, if Massachusetts is going to build “More, faster” it will go much better if we have our communities moving in the same direction.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF