The Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts (HBRAMA) recently released a report, “Public Policy for Net Zero Homes and Affordability,” in which researchers from the MIT Center for Real Estate and Wentworth Institute of Technology analyzed the confluence of the housing and climate crises on building costs and, consequently, housing affordability, along with the potential effects of the state’s recently passed “net zero” residential building code.
The 18-month study concluded that, without additional incentives or financial supports, the more stringent building requirements will likely push homeownership out of reach for many more families in Massachusetts.
The report estimates that the specialized stretch energy code is likely to increase the cost of home construction by roughly 1.8% to 3.8% — adding approximately $10,000 to $23,000 to the median cost of a single-family home and putting homeownership out of reach for between 15,000 and 33,000 households. The researchers also estimated a 2.4% rise in construction costs for large multifamily buildings.
“When it comes to housing policy, we must balance the scales in these two vital areas — affordability and climate change. Our policymakers must avoid tilting too far in one direction to the detriment of the other,” said HBRAMA President Jeffrey Brem in a press release. “Legislative and regulatory efforts at the state and local levels should be geared toward accelerating the construction of housing that is more energy-efficient but also more equitable, more attainable and more affordable to a larger pool of Massachusetts residents.”
The research team identified a series of policy tools that could facilitate the production of more energy-efficient and affordable housing, including:
- Implementing land use changes that reduce carbon emissions and increase affordability.
- Streamlining permitting and reducing utility connection delays.
- Restructuring financial incentives and tax credits.
- Increasing technical assistance for green building.
- Expanding financing sources.
- Supporting low-income renters.
- Creating new tax classifications and exemptions.
The study was supported by a diverse array of organizations, including the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, the Building Industry Association of Washington, Cape Cod Five, Housing Assistance Corporation, Massachusetts Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders, Planning Office for Urban Affairs at the Archdiocese of Boston, Propane Education and Research Council, Pulte Homes, Mitsubishi Electric, Sunpower and Toll Brothers.
The full report is available through HBRAMA’s website.