The Senate plans to vote Thursday on a roughly $4 billion economic development bill that would invest more than twice as much money as the House-approved version in human service provider rates and affordable housing construction, plus boost spending on early education, electric vehicle infrastructure and clean water.
Top Senate Democrats on Monday presented a rough outline of the legislation they plan to advance this week, which Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues said calls for about $1 billion in bonds and close to $3 billion in direct spending that would be split “mostly evenly” between federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and the state’s fiscal year 2022 budget surplus.
That would leave about $1.25 billion remaining unspent in ARPA funds held by state government and a significant, but not yet clear, amount of fiscal 2022 surplus money to be put to use at a later date.
Senate President Karen Spilka said holding off on additional ARPA spending will allow lawmakers to get a better understanding of areas of need, noting that dollars authorized last year are still on their way out the door.
“We want to be thoughtful about this and we have some time,” Spilka said.
Several areas of spending differ from the $4.2 billion version that cleared the House unanimously last week (H.5007). The Senate bill would bump up Chapter 257 human service provider rate funding to $250 million, about $150 million more than the House bill, and push money available for housing production from $175 million to $400 million.
Housing investments in the Senate’s bill include:
- $95.2 million for deleading, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and other renovation grants.
- $73.1 million for the state Housing Stabilization and Investment Trust Fund.
- $32.1 million for loans to help the development of supportive housing for people with mental health needs and intellectual disabilities.
- $29.5 million for the state Housing Innovations Trust Fund.
- $19.3 million for to power a demonstration program aimed at finding cost-effective ways to revitalize public housing properties.
- $11.7 million for transit-oriented affordable housing grants and loans.
- $6.9 million for the state Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund.
- $1 million in financial assistance to help produce “climate resilient affordable multifamily housing.”
Advocates like the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) have been lobbying legislators to deploy even more of the state’s ARPA haul to boost housing production, citing record-low affordability levels and the once-in-a-generation nature of the federal funding. After Gov. Charlie Baker proposed dedicating $1 billion in ARPA money to various housing production funds, state legislators pared the spending down to $624 million. Should the House back the Senate’s housing spending plans, the money would come in addition to that.
The earlier tranche of ARPA funding for housing creation included:
- $65 million for first-time homebuyer assistance.
- $115 million for the CommonWealth Builder program and other programs that fund the production moderately-priced for-sale units.
- $115 million for rental housing production.
- $150 million for the production of supportive housing for seniors and veterans.
- $150 million for maintenance of existing public housing projects.
- $87 million in various smaller earmarks related to housing or infrastructure projects.
Banker & Tradesman staff writer James Sanna contributed to this story.