March 2019
Housing Choices Bill Gets Renewed Push on Beacon Hill

Continuing his commitment to make housing a priority, Governor Baker recently announced that he was reintroducing the Housing Choices Bill for the 2019-2020 legislative session. The governor was joined at a State House news conference by dozens of municipal officials, housing advocates, business leaders and others in support of prompt passage of the bill. HBRAMA president Hunter Marosits, immediate past president Gary Campbell and governmental affairs chair John Smolak participated in the event. “Passage of the Housing Choices Bill is our top priority,” said President Marosits. “Making it easier for communities to adopt zoning for housing will benefit young couples seeking to buy their first home, growing families looking to trade up, and downsizing baby boomers wishing to live near their children and grandchildren.”

The bill filed by the governor mirrors the legislation supported by the HBRAMA in the prior legislative session. If passed by the Legislature it will enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing development by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. It does not mandate cities and towns to make any of these zoning changes; but will allow municipalities that want to rezone for denser, transit or downtown oriented, and new housing development to do so more easily.

Zoning changes that promote best practices for housing growth that would qualify for the simple majority threshold include:
  • Building mixed-use, multi-family, and starter homes, and adopting 40R “Smart Growth” zoning in town centers and near transit.
  • Allowing the development of accessory dwelling units, or “in-law” apartments.
  • Approving Smart Growth or Starter Homes districts that put housing near existing activity centers.
  • Granting increased density through a special permit process.
  • Allowing for the transfer of development rights and enacting natural resource protection zoning.
  • Reducing parking requirements and dimensional requirements, such as minimum lot sizes.

See the Governor’s Press Release [here].

Your Association with continue to work with the Administration and Legislature to advocate for enactment of this important bill. 

Governor Proposes 50% Hike on Real Estate Transfer Tax To Fund Local Climate Change Programs
 
At the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s (MMA) Annual Meeting on January 18, Governor Charlie Baker announced the proposal for a 50% increase in the real estate transfer tax to pay for local climate change programs. Citing this increase as “a modest increase in the excise on real estate transfers in the deeds transfer tax,” the Administration suggested this tax increase will amount to $137 million on an ongoing, annualized basis for the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund, or over $1 billion over the next decade. What this means is that on an average home sale of $400,000, the tax would increase from $1,600 to $2,400. On a $600,000 sale, it increases from $2,400 to $3,600. In both cases, it represents 0.6% of the sale price. By adding this tax to the typical 5% sales commission, along with adjustments such as real estate taxes, water/sewer charges, attorney’s fees, etc. the Seller is losing 6% to 7% of gross sales proceeds, seriously infringing on margins. Thinking of it from another perspective, the buyer of a house on day 1 of the purchase cumulatively loses 6% to 7% of the value of the home in terms of equity, because the buyer will have to pay these same costs when they sell. At a time when the Administration is seeking to advance housing production to enhance housing affordability and availability, the increase represents yet another disincentive for home ownership by moving buyers further away from being able to afford a home. This proposal was filed as a part of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget as H.1. While the HBRAMA will continue to voice its concerns and objections over this latest budget proposal, the reality is that it would be difficult to imagine the Legislature not approving this budget item in some form.

Matthew Nelson Appointed Chairman of Department of Public Utilities; Replacing Angela O’Connor

On January 31, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton announced that Matthew Nelson has been appointed Chairman of the Department of Public Utilities. Nelson replaces outgoing Chairman Angela M. O’Connor who departs following a four year term. Matt Nelson assumes the Chairmanship after having worked for the Department for eight years, most recently as the Director of Electric Power and Regional and Federal Affairs. Prior to public service, Matt spent four years at Eversource Energy as the Supervisor of Regulatory, Policy, and Planning as part of the MassSave Initiative, and is a graduate of Stonehill College, and holds a Master’s degree in economics from Tufts University.

The Association particularly thanks former Chair Angela O’Connor for her leadership, and particularly for her tireless efforts in assisting the HBRAMA’s Natural Gas Subcommittee in implementing the Interconnection Working Group. We understand that Chairman Nelson intends to continue the important work of the Interconnection Working Group in efforts to assist our Members and others on continuing to streamline both natural gas and electrical utility connection processes to ensure more predictable and efficient efforts, particularly on new construction.
 
Michael Kennealy Appointed New Secretary of Housing and Economic Development; Replacing Jay Ash

Governor Baker named Mike Kennealy as the new Secretary of Housing and Economic Development following the departure of former secretary Jay Ash from the Administration.
Mike Kennealy joined the Baker-Polito Administration in 2015 as Assistant Secretary for Business Growth in the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. As Assistant Secretary, Kennealy worked to advance the Administration’s strategy for job creation and business development across the entire Commonwealth. Kennealy began his career in private equity at TA Associates, a Boston-based firm. In 1997, he joined Spectrum Equity, a private equity firm he founded. After his career in private equity, Kennealy spent two years as Special Advisor to the Receiver at Lawrence Public Schools, where he worked with the state-appointed superintendent/receiver on strategic and financial initiatives to support the school district’s turnaround plan.

HBRAMA President Hunter Marosits, HBRAMA immediate past president Gary Campbell, HBRAMA Government Affairs Committee Chairman John Smolak and HBRAMA lobbyists Ben Fierro and Patricia Lynch, recently met with Secretary Kennealy to discuss ways the Association can work with his office to increase housing production in Massachusetts.

DeLeo and Spilka Announce Leadership And Committee Picks

Following their election to lead their respective chambers, Speaker of the House of Representatives Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka, announced their leadership and committee appointments for the 191st Session of the Massachusetts Legislature. Of interest to members of the HBRAMA is the selection of Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) as the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee) as the Assistant Majority Leader in the House of Representatives. Both Senator Rodrigues and Rep. Wagner have a demonstrated record of support for the home building and remodeling industry. Another positive development was the reappointment of Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Boston) as the House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Housing. Rep. Honan is a true friend of housing who has worked tirelessly to advocate for reforms and programs that expand housing opportunities for all citizens of the Commonwealth. He has also been a staunch defender of Chapter 40B, the Comprehensive Permit Law–the most effective tool available to developers of multifamily housing in Massachusetts. Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) will join Rep. Honan as the Senate Chairman of the Housing Committee.
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