Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday signed legislation spreading $626 million around the economy over the next five years and making it easier to build new housing, an area where Massachusetts has lagged behind other states, while rejecting tenant protections in the bill. 

The housing changes in the bill “represent the first significant zoning reform in decades,” Baker said in a letter alongside his signature. He vetoed a provision in the bill delaying the so-called “housing choice” measure for 90 days, saying it should take effect now. Baker also agreed to a major section in the bill that would require every town with MBTA stations to zone an area for by-right multifamily development near at least one station.

“This legislation will drive economic growth and improve housing stability, neighborhood stabilization and transit oriented development,” the governor said in a statement. “Combined with our $668 million small business relief grant program that is supporting local businesses impacted by COVID-19, this legislation will support future growth and expand opportunity for people across Massachusetts, and we appreciate the work of our legislative colleagues throughout this process.” 

Baker signed 100 of the bill’s outside sections and vetoed 11, including three sections that would have required housing development projects benefiting from a housing development incentive program tax credit to have at least 10 percent affordable units. The proposal would have made projects more difficult to finance, Baker said, noting that the bill doubles the cap on the state low-income housing tax credit for the next five years to $40 million. 

Baker also vetoed sections that would allow local-option tenant right to purchase bylaws and ordinances and the creation of a process for sealing records in eviction cases. Real estate groups, particularly landlord organizations, had lobbied heavily against these provisions, saying the former would effectively impose up to a 240-day waiting period on attempts to sell rental properties and the latter would hurt landlords’ ability to screen out bad tenants.  

Sen. Eric Lesser, co-chair of the Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee and one of the lead negotiators on the final package, praised Baker’s signature, pointing specifically to a section of the bill that aims to educate student loan borrowers about their responsibilities and borrowing rights.

“In a time of crisis for our Commonwealth, the Legislature completed one of the most important economic recovery and investment packages in recent history,” Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, said in a statement. “With the inclusion of urgently needed small business and restaurant relief, new protections for over 1 million student loan borrowers, and the most progressive and far-reaching housing reform in decades, this legislation will bring needed relief to families, small businesses, and communities hit hardest by COVID-19.”

Rep. Andy Vargas, a Haverhill Democrat, tweeted that the bill “promises more housing supply & more equitable production across the state.”

Baker OKs Mandatory TOD Zoning, Rejects Tenant Protections

by State House News Service time to read: 2 min