April 2019
HBRAMA Leadership Meets with L ieutenant Governor Polito to Discuss Housing Policy

On April 9th, members of HBRAMA leadership met with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito to discuss housing issues facing the industry. Attending on behalf of the HBRAMA were: President Hunter Marosits; former President Gary Campbell, GAC Chair John Smolak, former President and Utility Subcommittee Chair Mark Leff, Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates, and our Association lobbyists, Patricia Lynch and Ben Fierro. We are fortunate to have a Lt. Governor who knows the housing and building issues facing the industry, and who is taking proactive steps with the Administration to remove barriers to housing production. We thank former President Andrew Crane for his efforts to assist in securing this important meeting. We hope to follow up and to continue to work with the Lt. Governor and others within the Administration on these critical issues in the near future.  

NAHB Senior Economist, Robert Dietz, Participates in Joint Housing Committee Session for New Committee Members

On April 2nd, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing held an Informational Hearing, the purpose of which was to educate the new members of the Committee at the start of this legislative session about the state housing agencies, policies and programs. The session was also intended to educate the Committee members on the extent and scope of the Commonwealth's housing crisis. Although this hearing was open to the public, only invited witnesses were allowed to testify. As an example of HBRAMA’s leadership on housing issues, the HBRAMA was invited by the Joint Committee on Housing to participate. To this end, we were fortunate to arrange to have the NAHB's Senior Economist, Robert Dietz, PhD, testify before the Joint Committee as one of the very few non-public sector participants at the hearing. Dr. Dietz described both national trends, as well as local housing trends, further demonstrating the dire need for housing production in Massachusetts. A copy of Dr. Dietz’ testimony can be found here. Others testifying at the hearing included: Mike Kennealy, Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development; Chrystal Kornegay, Executive Director, Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency; Roger Herzog, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation; and, Clark Ziegler, Executive Director, Massachusetts Housing Partnership.  

Please see the following news links covering the hearing and related testimony:

Housing Choices Bill Hearing to be Scheduled in Mid-May, 2019

A prominent topic at the April 2nd Joint Committee on Housing session was the need to adopt the Administration’s housing bill, H. 3507, An Act to Promote Housing Choices. We note that as a follow-up to the March, 2019 Edition of On the Level, we understand the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing will be scheduling a hearing on the Housing Choices bill at around the middle of next month. The sooner that H.3507 can be adopted, the sooner that cities and towns across the Commonwealth can begin a facilitated process to rezone to allow for greater housing production. Copies of both a summary and full text of H. 3507 can be found here.

HBRAMA’s Utilities Subcommittee Meets With New DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson

Members of HBRAMA’s Utilities Subcommittee met with the new Chairman of the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), Matthew Nelson, on April 3rd. This was HBRAMA’s first meeting with the new Chairman, and our team provided valuable background to the Chairman on our ongoing challenges in working with utility companies as well as our priorities for the coming months. In particular, HBRAMA received assurances that the important work of the Inter-connection Working Group, which has enabled our members to confront utilities and regulators on needed policy and process changes, will continue its efforts to streamline the new construction process. One of the most important accomplishments of the Inter-connection Working Group has been National Grid’s agreement with Verizon to handle pole sets, eliminating a recurring delay in providing electric service to new developments. HBRAMA is also monitoring proposed new protocols for natural gas installations to limit red tape and costs. Russell Leonard and Mark Leff, co-chairmen of the Utilities Subcommittee, attended the meeting along with Brian Lussier of Comfort Homes, Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates, Dave Bauer of Toll Brothers, and Ben Fierro, HBRAMA’s Counsel and lobbyist.

HBRAMA’s Legislative Agenda Established

At the HBRAMA’s Governmental Affairs Committee meeting on March 19th, the Association unveiled its legislative agenda for the 2019-2020 legislative session. Key among the legislative proposals include a bill that would prohibit the Board of Building Regulations and Standards from adopting any further local option amendments to the State Building Code—so-called “stretch codes.” Other bills submitted by the Association would address the usefulness of variances and special permits, improve subdivision roads, and require training for volunteer members of local boards and commissions. A complete list of the Association’s legislative agenda can be found here. For more details on these important legislative efforts, please review the next edition of Bay State Builder for a complete summary authored by our lobbyist, Ben Fierro of Lynch & Fierro. Thanks to both Ben Fierro and Patricia Lynch, as well as other members, who have contributed to these efforts. 

BBRS Adopts 2018 IECC; Targets January, 2020 for New 10th Edition to State Building Code 

At its March meeting, the BBRS voted to adopt the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as modified by a number of amendments (the Massachusetts Energy Code). Among the amendments that had been proposed was an “EV-Ready” provision that would apply to all residential projects including single family homes, but only the provision to exclude all 1 & 2 family homes and all residential projects with less than 15 parking spaces was modified.

The BBRS has targeted January 1, 2020 as the effective date for the new Massachusetts Energy Code and the BBRS also hopes to promulgate the 10th Edition of the MA State Building Code (which will be based on the 2018 I-Codes) by the same time so that both changes have an effective date of January 1, 2020. Thanks to Guy Webb for keeping us informed of these important changes.

Governor’s Proposed 50% Hike on Real Estate Transfer Tax to Fund Local Climate Change Programs Dropped from House Budget Proposal

As reported in the March, 2019 Edition of On the Level, Governor Charlie Baker announced the proposal for a 50% increase in the real estate transfer tax to pay for local climate change programs as part of the Administration’s State Budget proposal. On April 10th, however, the House Ways and Means Committee’s spending plan for the July 1st fiscal year was released by Speaker Robert DeLeo and did not include the proposed increase in the real estate transfer tax earmarked for initiatives related to climate change. We note, however, that it has been reported that that such tax proposal could come up for discussion later in the session after being vetted by House committees, and that Senate Democratic leaders have also hinted at a discussion about taxes later in the session. Your Association will keep a close watch on this matter as the legislative session progresses.
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