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As an economic development hearing got underway Friday morning, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that his administration has proposed a $275 million COVID-19 recovery package as an update to the bill he proposed before the pandemic.
The governor said the new proposal is based on the original $260 million jobs bill, and targets investments towards three main buckets: housing, community development and business competitiveness as a response to the dramatically different economic situation created by the pandemic.
"By funding more affordable housing, implementing critical zoning reform, stabilizing neighborhoods, and supporting minority-owned businesses with record levels of funding, these proposed changes will bring critical relief and promote equity across Massachusetts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic," Baker said.
The governor said the bill also includes the full text of his "housing choices" bill, which he has been pushing the Legislature for years to adopt to support his administration's goal of producing 135,000 new housing units by 2025.
"This is a chance for us to find new ways of encouraging housing production at the local level. The Housing Choices reforms, still included in this legislation, are designed to foster more production and to promote equitable access to opportunity while respecting the local decision making process," Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said. "It does this by enabling cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices, through a simple majority vote, rather than the current two thirds supermajority without meaningful zoning reform."
After Baker's press conference, Kennealy was expected to testify during a hearing of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies to detail changes the administration has made to its original bill.
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