With Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito out of the picture for the 2022 governor’s race, we implore a candidate to seize their mantle as “the housing ticket.” 

As Massachusetts’ top two executives for the last seven years, the duo notched several wins for working families, most notably January’s important Housing Choice zoning reform, which is paving the way for more housing production every day. They helped lead a best-in-the-nation response to the pandemic eviction crisis, from supporting an eviction freeze last year to stabilize the situation and then working diligently to address problems with the state rental assistance program once it became apparent that their initial effort was compromised. 

They’ve also made significant efforts to push funding out the door and into the hands of affordable housing developers, and even created an innovative response to the racial wealth gap – the CommonWealth Builder Program – and helped ensure it will see its funding tripled by federal pandemic relief funds. 

But most of all, they have constantly put the state’s housing production shortage front and center in the conversation about home prices and rents. Legislators reluctant to upset NIMBY constituents found no friend in the State House’s corner office, and it’s clear that by lifting up this cause, they helped shape the vital debates in municipal planning boards and city councils that actually lead to more construction. 

Without their hard work, rents and home prices would doubtless be higher than they are today.  

But sadly, so far there is no candidate in the race who is staking out this vital ground. Harvard professor Danielle Allen may be the closest of the four declared candidates at this point, laying out a multifaceted “housing agenda” as one of only two elaborated policy platforms. And, crucially, she specifically calls out the need for abundant housing of all types, with an emphasis on affordable units – units that need always-scarce subsidy dollars to break ground. 

This speaks to a cruel reality of our state’s ongoing struggle to adequately and affordably house all residents: The same allegedly liberal, politically active suburbanites who most politicians rely on for campaign donations and votes are often the very people blocking new developments.  

Unless our next governor is prepared to stand up to them, there will be no counterweight on Beacon Hill to the same forces that have led Massachusetts into our current mess, where there are literally not enough homes to house working families in large parts of the state.  

We can only hope that candidates for governor will realize there are hundreds of thousands of voters out there who feel this pain directly every month, and will reward the politician who promises to catalyze the creation of a home in their community that they can afford. 

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With Baker Out, Housing Needs a Champion

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min