Categories: Editorials

Guest Op-Ed: Housing, Climate, and More

 By Senator Lydia Edwards

The State House is busy as we finish our session. Last week we passed a comprehensive Veterans Bill that addressed benefits, homelessness, and mental health. This week we are working on climate and next week very likely housing. Below I discuss very briefly housing and climate bills. I look forward to answering any questions on June 25, 2024, at my Coffee Hour at 2 PM at the Winthrop Senior Center.

Housing

I listened to the most recent Winthrop Planning Board meeting, which was held on June 10. I am pleased with the direction that the Town appears to be taking on the topic of the MBTA 3A Zoning Act.

A number of months ago, during a period of great distress shown by many, I was fortunate enough to hear the voices of a number of Winthrop residents and elected officials.

Our community pulled together a history and timeline that demonstrated that since 1960, Winthrop has consistently been a leader in accommodating growth in Housing. In fact, Winthrop’s multi-family housing stock had risen by more than 2000 units since 1960. Various actions by the Town Council in 2012 and 2020 rezoned Winthrop center and certain waterfront areas to accommodate roughly another 600 housing units. The point was made that Winthrop was a model community well ahead of the Commonwealth’s current housing initiative.

Working with local citizens such as Donna and Tom Reilly and councilors Swope, Daros, Belcher and Aiello, we pulled together the rough outline of a proposal that was brought forward by the Town Manager to Secretary Augustus. The central argument – Winthrop should receive great credit for being ahead of the curve regarding housing.

The draft technical proposal by the consultant’s presentation to the Planning Board did just that: it proposed credits for the development of Governor’s Park and Seal Harbor as well as the mixed use rezoning of Winthrop Center that took effect in 2020.

I have remained in continuous contact with Housing Secretary Augustus and his staff. I continue to advocate on behalf of the Town and am confident we’ll reach an agreement that most in Winthrop can feel good about.

It’s important to resolve this matter in the best interests of Winthrop and with as much speed as possible. Winthrop faces additional urgent matters. These matters include solving the mobility challenges Winthrop faces getting into and out of Town. This matter worsens public safety and public health. We need to work together to find funding for our schools, a fire station, Stormwater upgrades and other measures to dramatically reduce flooding and many more issues. We must work together to gain access to state and federal funds wherever available because we cannot place the burden solely on the Town’s taxpayers.   We must also examine whether Massport and the MWRA are truly paying the Town for the direct and indirect burdens they place on the Town.

Additionally, the Housing Bond Bill, with funding ranging from $4 to $6 billion, aims to meet the state’s housing goals. Winthrop remains a priority in infrastructure development, first-time homebuyer programs, and ensuring support for those who fall within the “missing middle” income bracket, often overlooked by current housing assistance programs. Over one billion dollars is dedicated to retrofitting public housing and assuring our most vulnerable populations have affordable, sustainable, clean housing. I look forward to meeting with town councilors and our town manager to ensure the Bond Bill language reflects the unique needs of our town.

Climate

The future sustainability of our community hinges on effective climate action. While housing development is crucial, it must align with our commitment to a green future. Two critical bills, Senate 2531 and Senate 570, are set to make significant strides in upgrading our energy infrastructure and reducing plastic waste, directly benefiting Winthrop.

The first, An Act Upgrading the Grid and Protecting Ratepayers (S.2531) mandates energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reductions in all Commonwealth buildings. By establishing an Office of Environmental Justice and Equity, we ensure that clean energy benefits reach every corner of our state, including Winthrop.

The bill also broadens the definition of clean energy to include innovative solutions like carbon dioxide removal and nuclear fission, paving the way for a more sustainable future. Furthermore, it provides discounted energy rates for moderate-income families, making clean energy more accessible and affordable.

In addition, we are creating a support system for public participation in energy-related decisions, ensuring that Winthrop residents have a voice in shaping our energy future. These measures are not just about energy; they are about empowering our community and protecting our environment.

The second, An Act to Reduce Plastics (S.570) addresses plastic pollution head-on. The bill bans retailers from providing single-use plastic bags, instead requiring the use of recycled paper or reusable bags, with a nominal fee that supports environmental programs.

Moreover, it restricts state agencies from purchasing single-use plastic bottles, promoting a culture of sustainability within our government. The establishment of a statewide bulk plastic recycling program will enhance our recycling efforts and reduce plastic waste.

Additionally, the bill mandates clear labeling on non-flushable wipes and sets penalties for violations, protecting our waterways from contamination. An education program will ensure that all residents understand the importance of proper disposal practices.

These legislative efforts represent a significant step forward in our journey toward a greener, more sustainable Winthrop. By supporting Senate 2531 and Senate 570, we are not only protecting our environment but also fostering a community that values clean energy and responsible waste management.

Together, we can make Winthrop a model for environmental stewardship and sustainable living. Let’s take this opportunity to lead by example and build a cleaner, healthier future for all, addressing critical issues such as EFSB citing authority and accountability for major corporations like Eversource and National Grid. Additionally, initiatives to ban plastic bags and expand bottle bills are essential steps toward a more sustainable future for Winthrop and the Commonwealth.

I look forward to continuing to fight in the trenches with you. Together, I know, we can make Winthrop stronger in every dimension important to its citizens. 

Transcript Staff

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