The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday night that would authorize up to $269 million in general obligation bonds to finance land acquisitions for housing and improvements to existing housing.
By a voice vote, the House passed a bill that would authorize bonding to purchase land for new housing and to refurbish some of the 50,000 low- and moderate-income housing units owned by the state.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Raymond A. Jordan, D-Hampden. When it moves to the Senate it will be sponsored by Sen. Frederick E. Berry, D-Essex. Over 40 lawmakers in both chambers have affixed their names in support of the measure.
If approved by the Senate, the measure must be signed by Gov. William F. Weld.
The largest component of the legislation would authorize as much as $110 million in bonds for modernization of housing.
"This is something that just needs to be done," said Robin Michaels, coalition coordinator of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, who noted that the state hasn't funded any repairs for its housing since 1987. "There are some facilities badly needing repair."
The bill calls for the state to issue as much as $50 million in bonds for the Massachusetts portion of the Federal Housing Stabilization and Investment Program; $34 million for public, elderly, and special need housing; $25 million for the state's Lead Paint Abatement Program; $20 million for the Community Development Action Grant: and $30 million for the Housing Innovations Fund.
The Housing Innovations Fund will be used to provide facilities for battered women and children and rape victims, Michaels said.
Michaels said the $50 million for the federal housing stabilization program is necessary to earn a matching grant from the federal government. There is $1.2 billion available for all 50 states, she said, and Massachusetts expects to get about $31 million over the next two years.
The state last passed a bond package for housing in 1987 for $402 million. Since then, economic problems have precluded any bond authorization. In the robust mid-1980s, the state issued more than $1 billion in general obligation bonds.
The current bond authorization is expected to pass the Senate, but Weld may decide that the state can not afford it.
Dominic Slowey, the governor's chief financial spokesman, said Weld wants to do a bond issuance for housing, but has not yet decided.
"We're going to be looking at all of the components of the bill and decide then," Slowey said. "There may not be enough in our five-year capital plan to accommodate all the parts of this legislation."
Michaels said she expects the bonds issues authorized by the bill to come to market over the next three or four years.