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State News: Lawmakers Pitch Five-Point Bill to Lift Struggling Cities

2.5.19

You've likely heard about the housing crisis in eastern Massachusetts, with too few units available and prices always on the rise. 

But a second housing crisis, one with effectively opposite circumstances, lurks across much of the rest of the state. In former industrial cities hit by economic challenges, vacant and blighted properties remain, home prices are depressed and federal development grant dollars are shrinking. 

New legislation filed by members of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus, based on research by MassINC and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, aims to address those problems. The bill proposes a combination of state funding and initiatives that supporters say will help towns and cities stabilize distressed areas. 

"Everyone here who's been to a gateway city or lives in a gateway city knows that there's much more to us than just our downtowns or Main Streets," said Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), who sponsored the legislation last week alongside Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford). "There's really an opportunity to change these neighborhoods." 

The bill has five key components designed to reverse damaging economic trends. The proposal would double the annual cap of the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) to $20 million and create a "spot blight rehabilitatiion program" to help cities address residential properties that have been left vacant by landlords or developers. It also suggests establishing a housing commission specifically to study weak markets, ensuring the Mass School Building Authority considers neighborhood vitality when weighing proposals, and requiring the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to create a capacity building initiative. 

"These neighobrhoods are key to our successs," Cabral said. "We think by targeting these five levels, we can accomplish a lot in our cities and towns.

More on this proposed legislation from The Salem News.

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