On Jan. 18, the Massachusetts Legislature heard testimony on the $4.1 billion bond bill on affordable housing (H4138). This is an enormously important bill for Plymouth. The hearing lasted more than nine hours and testimony was given by hundreds of people including legislators, housing authorities and other stakeholders. The bill is more than double any prior investment and full of significant policy changes.

This hearing allowed citizens and stakeholders an opportunity to weigh in on all the provisions of the bill.

This is why, as a citizen of Plymouth and a Town Meeting member, I gave oral testimony. I believe it is important for our lawmakers on Beacon Hill to hear first-hand the perspective of some Plymouth citizens.

The bill contains a number of policy changes that directly impact Plymouth. Among them are changes to inclusionary zoning, municipal approval for the Real Estate Transfer Tax, Accessory Dwelling Units by right, tenant rights and eviction sealing, land disposition, and more. After careful review of these proposals with constituents, I prepared the following testimony to the Joint Committee on Housing in support of the Affordable Homes Act:

“Good evening, chairs, and committee members, My name is Art Desloges, and I am a Town Meeting Member from Plymouth. I speak in support of the Affordable Homes Act. In Plymouth, like most communities, the availability of affordable homes is considered one of our major public policy challenges. The residents of more than 31 percent of owner-occupied homes and more than 51 percent of renter occupied units are cost burdened. This problem is most acute to first time homebuyers and younger families. One of our dearest community values is to ensure that our young families, teachers, hospital staff, and many others find a place in Plymouth they can call home. They are a vibrant and needed part of our community. One young couple told me that it is not only the high cost of a starter home, but the fact that these starter homes are often in remote locations and require so much work that they walk away totally discouraged.

The Affordable Homes Act would enormously help Plymouth. Hypothetically, if Plymouth were to increase the number of affordable units in proportion to its population because of this bill, then Plymouth would benefit from an additional 377 affordable housing units. This would make a giant impact on our current shortfall of over 1,000 units.

We particularly support provisions of this measure that allow municipalities the autonomy to raise and use funds that fit our local needs. For example, allowing municipalities the option of imposing a real estate transfer tax on the sale of high price homes which can be used by our local Affordable Housing Trust allows us to make the choices that best fit our community. We support the allocation of $800 million to the State Affordable Housing Trust. Our local Affordable Housing Trust asks that a substantial portion of these funds be allocated to our local Trust as direct aid. Direct aid to municipalities allows us to save administrative costs and gives us the opportunity to put these funds to work quickly and have maximum local benefit.

In closing, the young couple I previously talked about will be happy to hear about the new tax credits for first time home buyers. We thank the administration for advancing this comprehensive proposal and we will continue to support workable solutions to this issue.”

Art Desloges

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