Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signaled Thursday that as the state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the aggressive creation of new housing is likely to become his administration’s top priority.
“This is a huge problem, and if we don’t go hard at this coming out of this reopening and recovery … it’ll be a huge missed opportunity,” Baker said at the close of a press conference in Lowell, his tone sharp as he addressed the topic for nearly four uninterrupted minutes.
Baker addressed the topic after he was asked about a report detailing a Denver-based investor's push to sell off affordable-housing units in Boston's South End.
“We don’t have enough supply of any kind, and it’s a big problem,” Baker added. “It’s an equity problem. It’s an economic-development problem. It’s a community-development problem. It makes huge differences with respect to where people can actually afford to live here in the commonwealth, whether or not they can stay and where they make decisions about where to start a family.”
The tenor of Baker’s remarks on housing contrasted starkly with the earlier portion of the event, which was held at Panela Restaurant in Lowell and marked the closure of the state’s COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program, which has distributed $687 million to more than 15,000 recipients.
In his introductory remarks, Baker called that program a success, saying that, by design, 46% of the grants went to women-owned businesses and 43% to minority-owned businesses.
He also touted the state’s improving coronavirus metrics, noting that hospitalizations dropped below 500 yesterday for the first time since October 2020 and that the state’s positivity rate is down to 1.5%.
“There’s a lot of very positive stuff going on here,” Baker said.
When it came to housing, though, Baker’s tone suggested both profound frustration and a desire to utilize available resources to address the issue, including money freed up by a state bond bill two years ago and new federal funding sources.
“We are the classic example of, if you don’t build any new housing, you will create a supply problem — and when you create that supply problem, you will create a price problem,” Baker said, noting that the state routinely builds less than 10,000 new units annually after building 30,000 for much of the 20th Century.
“We don’t have enough affordable housing,” he said. “We don’t have workforce housing. We don’t have senior housing. We don’t have enough housing of any kind.”