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TALKING POINTS

Healey unveils housing plan focused on production and affordability

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Attorney General Maura Healey on Wednesday unveiled a new plan to tackle Massachusetts' high cost of housing, including mandating multifamily zoning near MBTA stations to create new apartment buildings, such as this one in Plymouth.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

HOUSING

Healey unveils housing plan focused on production and affordability

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey and her counterpart for lieutenant governor, Kim Driscoll, on Wednesday released their plan to tackle the sky-high cost of housing in Massachusetts, if elected. The “Healey-Driscoll Housing Agenda” would focus on “dramatically” increasing the state’s housing stock, in part by requiring multi-family zoning near MBTA stations, while boosting funding for programs to help first-time homebuyers, lower-income renters, and developers of affordable housing. A Healey-Driscoll administration would, for the first time, include a Cabinet-level secretary of housing to coordinate statewide policy and create an advisory council to better use state-owned land to create more housing. “If we want to make Massachusetts more affordable and help our businesses be more competitive, then we have to address the high cost of housing,” Healey said. “Young families can’t buy their first house, renters can’t stay in their homes, small businesses are struggling to retain workers, and our seniors can’t afford to downsize.” The plan takes no explicit stance on allowing rent control in Massachusetts, an issue likely to land on the next governor’s desk as a growing number of communities, including Boston, explore the prospect. But it says a Healey-Driscoll administration would “empower communities to enact local policies that best address their own, unique housing challenges.” — TIM LOGAN

FINTECH

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Blockchain advocates urge Beacon Hill lawmakers to invest in the emerging industry

Advocates for the state’s blockchain industry testified during a virtual hearing on Wednesday, urging the legislature to establish a fund to invest in the emerging sector. They voiced their support for a bill, proposed by Representative Josh Cutler of Pembroke and Representative Kate Lipper-Garabedian of Melrose, which would establish the Blockchain Labor Force Career Training Trust Fund. The fund would dole out grants to blockchain-related workforce development groups, employers, and schools to “support the education and training of individuals seeking careers in the blockchain technology industry,” according to the bill. Those testifying in support of the bill included Mike Wise from the Boston Blockchain Association and Loni Mahanta, who heads policy and government affairs at OpenSea, an NFT marketplace. “Even in its infancy, this technology is already making a significant impact on the economy,” Mahanta said. “The state is clearly well-positioned to build on its past successes in the biotech and IT sectors [to] add blockchain technology to its list of flagship industries.” — ANISSA GARDIZY

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ENERGY

After more than three months of steady declines, gas prices rose on Wednesday

And on the 100th day, gas prices rose. A 99-day run of falling prices for gasoline — a streak that gave consumers a glimmer of hope that red-hot inflation might be cooling — has ended, with pump prices still much higher than a year ago. The nationwide average price for a gallon ticked up less than a penny Wednesday, to $3.68 a gallon, according to AAA. That’s down from the record $5.02 average in mid-June. The 14-week decline in prices was the longest streak since 2015. The question now is whether Wednesday’s increase is just a blip or the precursor to the return of higher prices. The answer matters to motorists and to President Biden, who has taken credit for driving prices lower by releasing millions of barrels of oil from the nation’s reserves. Gasoline prices mostly reflect trends in global oil prices, and crude — both the US benchmark and the international Brent — have been slumping since mid-June on growing fears of a global recession that would reduce demand for energy. Many energy analysts believe that prices are more likely to rise than fall in the next few months. However, changes in sentiment about the economy, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and even hurricane season — always a threat to disrupt refineries along the Gulf Coast — make predictions uncertain. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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BACK TO WORK

NYC subway ridership hits post-pandemic high as workers, students come back

New York City subway stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn are seeing a boost in ridership as more workers return to offices and students head back to school. Subway usage at Manhattan’s Grand Central and Penn Station is up about 15 percent since May, Janno Lieber, chief executive at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Wednesday. The shifts imply that companies’ efforts to get workers to come back to the office for at least part of the week after Labor Day are having their intended effect. Subway usage reached 3.76 million on Tuesday, the most since the pandemic began in March 2020, according to Lieber. For all of 2019, average weekday ridership was about 5.5 million. “Most of the recent ridership surge is a tribute to white-collar workers returning to their offices more frequently along with tourism and school reopenings,” Lieber said during the board meeting. Some stations in lower Manhattan and central Brooklyn are seeing a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in ridership since May. Usage at the Howard Beach subway station at JFK airport is up 25 percent during that period, Lieber said. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

ENERGY

Germany takes over its biggest gas importer in bid to stabilize energy prices

Germany will nationalize Uniper in a historic move to rescue the country’s largest gas importer and avert a collapse of the energy sector in Europe’s biggest economy. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s administration will control about 99 percent of the Dusseldorf-based utility after injecting 8 billion euros ($8 billion) into the company and buying the majority stake held by Finnish utility Fortum Oyj. Germany is paying the price for building up reliance on Russia, which supplied more than half of the country’s gas before President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. Scholz is now overseeing a rapid overhaul, but the implications will last for years. Nationalizing Uniper is Germany’s biggest step to date to protect the country from blackouts and rationing this winter and beyond, and more will likely follow. Uniper is at the epicenter of Germany’s energy crisis. Its massive gas contracts with Russia exposed the company to the Kremlin’s moves to slash supplies in retaliation for sanctions. The utility has accumulated 8.5 billion euros in gas-related losses after prices for alternative sources soared. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

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