Mass. gov. rips 'decades of inertia and inaction' as she pitches $4 billion housing fix: 'There’s a reason people think about North Carolina or Texas'

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey on Tuesday pitched what she said was the state’s biggest-ever investment in its housing stock to address a dire shortage that’s hurt competitiveness against rivals.

“Housing is the biggest challenge we face,” Healey said at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event. “We’ve been down 200,000 housing units in our state. There’s a reason people think about North Carolina or Texas or other places to go — it’s housing. I want to end that.”

Healey’s administration has proposed a $4.1 billion bond-authorization bill to help improve public housing and incentivize new construction. She said this would help to address the lowest rental housing vacancy in the country, at 2.8%, compared with a “healthy” proportion of 6%.

“This is a solution that you need to overcome decades of inertia and inaction,” she said. The proposal will help to leverage the credit-rating upgrade that Massachusetts received last year from S&P Global Ratings, she said, which took it to AA+, the second-highest grade.

Healey separately suggested the fossil-fuel industry may be behind efforts to undermine the state’s transition toward renewable energy. Answering questions at the Tuesday event, she said, “Some of the efforts to — I can’t prove this yet — foment some of the opposition around the siting of necessary infrastructure, including substations for offshore wind coming onshore — I just question.”

“I think we need to really push back at some of what is at play here and what is going on in the fossil-fuel industry’s last-gasp effort to do all they can to snuff out these industries,” Healey said.

She prefaced those comments by noting that in her previous job as Massachusetts attorney general she sued Exxon Mobil Corp. for allegedly hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors. The company had “pummeled the crap out of me” in its public response, she said. A judge in 2021 denied Exxon’s motion to dismiss the suit, which is ongoing.

Big oil companies have raked in record profits since the pandemic, and global oil demand hit an all-time high last year. Production in the US has also hit a record high.

Climate Tech

Climate technology forms one pillar of Healey’s three-part plan to help advance the Massachusetts economy, alongside continuing to develop its life-sciences industry and establishing leadership in the application of artificial intelligence.

Healey said at the chamber’s 2024 Government Affairs Forum that she envisions a “transformative” push to partner the government with private-sector enterprises to construct a “global hub of climate tech.” This is “our next big play,” she said.

Along with developing solar and wind electricity generation, Massachusetts is examining the potential of fusion energy, Healey said.

Getting permits for transmission and other infrastructure to deliver renewable energy to customers can run into local opposition, the governor said. She called on the business community to help at the local level to overcome such obstacles. 

“Get on your local zoning or planning board and have those conversations,” Healey said. While the climate solutions are clear, Massachusetts is “behind” places like Europe, she said. She also called out “some of the efforts that I see to undermine electric vehicles” as having questionable origins.

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