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Baker signs economic and housing package, but vetoes some tenant protections

Supporters say the nearly $627 million package will help jumpstart the state’s economy

The bill would impose 15 percent caps on third-party delivery fees from companies like Grubhub and DoorDash,
The bill would impose 15 percent caps on third-party delivery fees from companies like Grubhub and DoorDash,Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday signed a nearly $627 million economic development bill, but rejected a handful of measures in the sprawling package, including two designed to further protect tenants.

Baker’s signature will put in motion hundreds of millions of state borrowing over the next five years, which officials say will help jumpstart a state economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The package includes more than $100 million in bonding authority to help small businesses, 15 percent caps on third-party delivery fees imposed by the likes of Grubhub and DoorDash, and legislation Baker has pushed for years to ease housing-related zoning changes.

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The language, known as Housing Choice, will reduce the voting threshold from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority needed to pass a range of land-use issues in cities and towns. Baker has said the change will help spur much needed housing throughout the state.

“This legislation will drive economic growth and improve housing stability, neighborhood stabilization and transit oriented development,” Baker said in a statement Thursday.

State Senator Eric P. Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat who helped negotiate the bill, said it holds the promise of being the “biggest change to housing policy in a generation.”

Baker also approved Senate language requiring all municipalities served by the MBTA to allow denser housing near some transit stations, as well as legislation to regulate student loan servicers.

But he rejected language to bolster tenant protections, such as a local option to give tenants the right of first refusal to buy their home.

Real estate industry groups had lobbied Baker to veto the provision, saying it could create a chilling effect on the housing market. In a letter to lawmakers, Baker said the change would make the sales of multifamily housing more “unpredictable” and potentially discourage construction of new rental units.

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Baker also vetoed a section that would have allowed some eviction records to be sealed, arguing it was too broad and would create a “significant administrative burden” on court officials.

Joe Kriesberg, chief executive of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, said he was “terribly disappointed” that Baker eliminated the two tenant protection provisions.

“The governor has obviously been focused on building more housing, and we certainly agree with him,” Kriesberg said. “But we also have a displacement crisis and we need tools to slow and stop displacement. . . . It can’t be one at the expense of the other.”

The Legislature passed and sent the economic stimulus package to Baker in the waning hours of the legislative session that ended last week, leaving them no recourse to directly override Baker’s vetoes.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout. Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.