"The Commonwealth Housing Task Force has proposed the most innovative plan to increase the housing stock in Greater Boston since the run-up in prices began two decades ago. The plan is sure to encounter roadblocks, but the broad coalition assembled by the task force ... suggests that its supporters have the staying power to change public policy."
Boston Globe editorial, November 18, 2003
The Massachusetts Housing Crisis
There is a serious and escalating housing crisis in Massachusetts, a situation now recognized by many sectors of the community. Young adults who grew up in the Commonwealth cannot afford to raise their families in their old neighborhoods. Low- and moderate-income families are being priced out of their rental units and feel the dream of homeownership slipping away. And most serious for the economic health of the Commonwealth, Massachusetts employers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit new workers – and to retain existing highly-skilled staff – because of the very high cost of housing. The Commonwealth Housing Task Force (CHTF) was convened to address these issues.
The CHTF is an ad hoc group representing widely-diverse constituencies: business and civic leaders, foundation leadership, affordable housing advocates, the environmental community, organized labor, real estate developers, elected and appointed officials at both the state and local levels, and higher education. They have come together to find common ground and to address the state's housing crisis on a coordinated basis. It is headed by four co-chairs – Eleanor White, Lawrence S. DiCara, Jerry Rappaport, Jr. and Robert E. Smyth – and convened by Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation, which provides staff and financial support for the group. In March of 2003, the CHTF retained Northeastern University's Center for Urban and Regional Policy (CURP), headed by Professor Barry Bluestone, to provide staff support. Prof. Bluestone, along with Ted Carman of Concord Square Development and Eleanor White of Housing Partners, Inc., refined the seminal ideas brought to CHTF by Ted Carman into the first policy document issued by CHTF.
In October of 2003, the CHTF released that landmark report "Building on our Heritage: A Housing Strategy for Smart Growth and Economic Development." The proposals included in that report served as the foundation of statewide legislation, the new Chapter 40R (Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Development Act), enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature and signed by the Governor in June of 2004. Implementing regulations for Chapter 40R were issued in March of 2005. View a detailed timeline of the history of CHTF.
The story of the CHTF is a remarkable one, and offers a case study in building a coalition of diverse interests into an effective advocacy group. This website, which will be updated regularly, tells that story, highlighting both the process of the Task Force and the policy initiatives adopted by it. The site also includes resources that may prove helpful to states, cities, and towns who are addressing housing issues in their own communities as well.
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