As mayors, we need Warren’s housing bill

Legislation sets aside $10b for grants to municipalities

AFFORDABLE HOUSING and access to home ownership are cornerstones of a strong middle class.

For generations, affordable rental housing was the first step in the American Dream. For generations, homeownership allowed working families to reach for new opportunities and build wealth. And across those same generations, lending discrimination, often through federally imposed “redlining” policies, helped create the wealth gap between white and black families.

That’s why, as city leaders, we invest so much of our time and energy in the issue of housing for our residents.

In Boston, we’ve fought hard to overcome a housing crisis and create fair access to affordable rents and homeownership opportunities. We’ve increased the production of new homes to keep pace with our growth in jobs and population—while maintaining our city’s one-in-five ratio of income-restricted, affordable housing. We’ve used every available tool to create and protect affordable housing: increasing requirements on developers, adopting the Community Preservation Act to raise more revenue, helping to renovate public housing, turning hundreds of city-owned parcels into affordable homes for first-time owners. We’ve even started buying homes off the open market and putting income restrictions on them.

Framingham, meanwhile, sits at a unique crossroads. As a new city, we need to diversify our housing inventory to meet a variety of residents’ needs. We are encouraging homeowners to stay in our community while launching a robust campaign to attract young professionals for our workforce. We’re serving a growing population of retired people. And with some neighborhoods still struggling to recover from the decline of manufacturing in New England, we’re making access to affordable housing a priority. We’re aiming for the right balance of new investment in the community without displacing existing residents.

Recognizing that what we really face is a regional housing shortage, we’ve worked together with cities and towns across Greater Boston to set region-wide housing targets. And we’re partnering with state legislators to create more tools to produce affordable housing and expand homeownership opportunities across the state.

In other words, it’s taking all the creativity, collaboration, and persistence we can muster, just to keep up with our growing needs.

But, the fact is, no city or region can solve this nationwide housing crisis by itself. To truly turn the tide, we need the federal government back at the table—and not with tweaks around the edges, but in a big way.

That’s why we support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act. It is a bold, comprehensive plan designed to overhaul our broken housing market. It’s big enough to meaningfully confront the challenges we face.

By setting aside billions of dollars in new investments for affordable housing programs, Warren’s plan would build or rehabilitate 3.2 million new housing units for lower-income and middle-class families. An independent analysis found that it would cut rents by 10 percent—saving the average tenant $100 per month.

The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act would also set aside $10 billion for a new grant program to incentivize municipalities to roll back unnecessary land use regulations that stop affordable housing projects dead in their tracks. In exchange, communities could use the grants to build new infrastructure, parks, roads, and transportation systems. These new investments would allow us to build more vibrant and inclusive communities across Greater Boston.

Meet the Author

Meet the Author
To help reverse the legacy of housing discrimination, Warren’s bill would offer targeted down-payment assistance to first-time homebuyers living in formerly segregated neighborhoods. That will help families buy homes and build wealth—an important first step to addressing the racial wealth gap. The legislation also helps families recover from the financial crisis by investing $2 billion to help borrowers with mortgages that exceed the value of their homes.

The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act strikes at the heart of what is required all across Greater Boston and Massachusetts. We can’t let an overheated housing market squeeze hard-working families and shut them out of the American dream. We look forward to working with Senator Warren to get this legislation signed into law, so we can build an economy that leaves no one out in the cold.

Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston and Yvonne Spicer is the mayor of Framingham.