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What difference does a housing secretary make? Healey outlines duties of 'game changer' position

Construction workers prepare a recently poured concrete foundation, Friday, March 17, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Construction workers prepare a recently poured concrete foundation, Friday, March 17, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

Hope you didn’t put that jacket into storage just yet. It’s going to get chilly tonight. Before you dig through your closet, let’s dig into this morning’s news:

What difference does a housing secretary make? A day after Gov. Maura Healey appointed former Worcester city manager Ed Augustus as Massachusetts’ first cabinet-level housing secretary in over 30 years, the governor pitched listeners of Radio Boston on how the position will be a “game changer” for local residents struggling to find an affordable home. But it’s a long game they’re playing, so it will take time (i.e. years) to see the full effects.

  • Healey told WBUR’s Tiziana Dearing the overall plan is to address the regional housing shortage by building “thousands and thousands” of new housing units at all income levels. The hope is that increasing supply will drive down home and rental prices.
  • According to Healey, the focus of Augustus will be “working directly” with his former peers in local government to make that happen, “because a lot of this comes down to zoning and planning and working with our planning councils to develop — or, in some cases, rehab and preserve — housing throughout this state.
  • What about rent control? Healey has said she’s OK with local cities implementing their own rent control policies, though they need state approval. WBUR’s Steve Brown reports local rent control proposals are going nowhere fast in the State House.
  • There may be some relief on the near-horizon. According to Banker & Tradesman, a wave of major housing projects set for completion this year — from Cambridge to Dorchester to Worcester — could soon put some downward pressure on rent prices.
  • What’s next: Augustus begins the new gig on June 1, a day after Healey’s plan to split the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development into two different agencies takes effect.
  • For more: Listen to Healey’s full interview on Radio Boston here.

Stop & Shop — the largest grocery chain in New England — is the latest local food retailer to get rid of plastic bags. The Quincy-based company says it will stop providing single-use plastic bags in all stores across the Northeast this July and begin charging 10 cents per paper bag.

  • A Stop & Shop spokesperson told WBUR’s Amy Sokolow the policy change is part of an effort to “minimize waste and encourage customers to shop with reusable bags” — which the chain sells at its locations for as low as 10-cents per bag.
  • Zoom out: Competitors like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans have already ditched single-use plastic bags, which are banned in many Massachusetts communities, including Boston. According to the Sierra Club, 157 of the state’s 351 cities and towns have some sort of plastic bag restriction.
  • What’s next: Stop & Shop’s sister company Hannaford told WCVB it aims to stop using plastic bags at its Massachusetts locations in “the near future.”

Dominick Pangallo is set to become the next mayor of Salem. According to the unofficial results of yesterday’s special election, Pangallo — who served as chief of staff for former mayor-turned-Lt. Gov Kim Driscoll for the last 10 years — beat fellow finalist and former mayor Neil Harrington, winning 52% of the 9,234 ballots cast.

  • Pangallo will serve out the remainder of Driscoll’s four-year term, which runs through 2025.

A red flag warning is again in effect today for almost all of southern New England, as the dry and windy weather continues. Massachusetts Fire Warden Dave Celino tells WBUR’s Dave Faneuf that the dry conditions, along with trees and thickets killed off from last year’s drought, have led to rapidly spreading brush fires in the last week.

P.S.— NPR has announced the winner of this year’s Tiny Desk Contest. And while they may not be from Massachusetts this year, we still think Utah’s Little Moon is very much worth a listen.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Ed Augustus will be Massachusetts' "first-ever" housing secretary; in fact, the state had a housing secretary until former Gov. Bill Weld eliminated the position in the early 1990s.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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