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Charlie Baker Signs Climate Change Bill Despite ‘Deep Misgivings’ About Effects On Cost of Housing in Massachusetts

August 13, 2022

Governor Charlie Baker signed a climate change bill despite having “deep misgivings” about aspects of it, including a measure that will allow 10 municipalities in Massachusetts to ban the use of oil, natural gas, and coal in the construction of new buildings and major renovations of existing ones.

“We all know the Commonwealth faces significant challenges in dealing with two existential threats — climate change, and housing supply and affordability. This bill does not move Massachusetts in the right direction on housing. And the process by which many provisions in this bill are implemented will determine if this bill will make significant progress toward our climate goals,” Baker wrote in a letter to state legislators Thursday, August 11.

Baker also said in the letter:  “It is unfortunate that the Legislature chose not to accept amendments I offered concerning housing production in communities that seek to implement a fossil fuel ban, because too many people in Massachusetts cannot afford to live here specifically because of the high cost of housing. … And I implore the Legislature and the next Administration to take a good, hard look at what that 10-town policy concerning natural gas does to the cost and availability of housing that working people can afford before they consider offering this exclusionary zoning policy to other communities.”

The 10 municipalities mentioned in Massachusetts House Bill 5060 (“An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind”) are Acton, Aquinnah, Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, and West Tisbury.

“That part of the bill gives me agita,” Baker said Tuesday, August 9, two days before signing it.

State Representative Tommy Vitolo (D-Brookline), who supports the measure, told State House New Service that he does not think requiring developers to forego using oil, natural gas, and coal will drive up the cost of housing because prices are already so high in the 10 mostly well-to-do communities mentioned in the bill.

State House News Service described an interview with Vitolo on that subject:

 

Vitolo gave an example of how he sees it playing out:  a home goes up for sale and developers hurry to calculate what they can offer for the property while maximizing their profits. Competing against other developers in a market where prices are already through the roof, a builder would not add any extra cost of the fossil fuel-free construction to the new building’s sale price but would instead account for that extra cost in the amount they offer for the property, he suggested.

“If there is additional cost to comply with fossil fuel-free, that additional cost will come out of the land seller’s end of the deal, not out of the home buyer’s end of the deal,” Vitolo said.

 

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