June 2018
Federal Update
 
Army Corps Re-Issues Massachusetts General Permits; Eliminates Vernal Pool Buffer Zones
 
As first reported in the November, 2017 edition of On the Level , the New England District of the US Army Corps of Engineers has now re-issued the General Permits for Massachusetts effective as of April 16, 2018 . As reported several months ago, and through the combined efforts of the HBRAMA, NAHB and the NH Homebuilders Association, the final General Permits do eliminate the previously proposed 750-foot buffer zone around vernal pools. This is a significant victory for our Association ! A special thanks to both Jeff Brem, P.E., of Meisner Brem Corp. , the Chair of the GAC’s Wetlands and Water Resources Committee, as well as Curt Young of Wetlands Preservation, Inc. , for lending their expertise to this effort. We also thank the NAHB which provided not only funding resources, but also the significant expertise of NAHB Senior Counsel Jeff Augello, as well as NAHB’s Program Manager for Environmental Policy, Owen McDonough, PhD, who successfully argued with the HBRAMA that the Corps’ proposed expansion of their vernal pool jurisdiction was legally, technically, and practically flawed. The new General Permits, which have an expiration date of April 5, 2023, can be found here
State Updates

End of Legislative Session Holds Promise for Governor’s Housing Choice Bill

As the legislative session comes to a close on July 31, positive momentum is building on Governor Baker’s Housing Production bill, H. 4075, An Act to Promote Housing Choices. As recently noted by Governor Baker in an article by the State House News Service on June 7,  "I really hope that we are able to get this done between now and the end of session," Baker said Thursday at the State House. "What I'd really like more than anything is sometime between now and July 31 to be standing at the base of the steps of the Grand Staircase out there with all of you and a whole bunch of folks from the Legislature standing behind me, filling us all the way to the top of the stairs, celebrating the fact that we're going to get back into the business of housing production here in the commonwealth. The Baker-Polito administration believes that the biggest threat to our continued prosperity and growth is this lack of housing supply," he said. The proposed bill (H 4075), which would allow zoning changes to be made with majority vote, rather than a 2/3 super-majority approval at the local level, is a change that would remove a major obstacle to upzoning designed to encourage housing production at the local level. We are hopeful that H. 4075 will withstand efforts to add provisions found in H. 4397, An Act Building for the Future of the Commonwealth, the so-called Great Neighborhoods bill, being promoted by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance and which is being unanimously opposed by the real estate industry since it serves to add measures which would add more local control, impose impact fees, and otherwise slow housing production.  

Governor Baker Signs $1.8 Billion Housing Bond Bill

On May 31, Governor Baker signed “An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents” (H.4536), which is designed to increase the production of affordable housing, diversify the state’s housing portfolio, and invest in new, innovative solutions to address Massachusetts’ rising demand for housing. The Legislation authorizes $1.8 billion in new capital spending over the next 5 years for the production and preservation of affordable housing for low- to moderate-income households, including $650 million for public housing modernization and redevelopment, and other programs designed to increase housing production. The Housing Bond Bill also included a 5-year extension of the Brownfields Tax Credit.
 
Architectural Access Board (AAB) Proposes Revisions to 521 CMR; Comments Due July 1

Described as the first full rewrite since 1996, the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB) is proposing amendments to its accessibility regulations at 521 CMR. According to the MAAB, the proposed regulatory amendments represent “the culmination of ten years of collaboration and debate to provide the citizens and businesses of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with a high-quality state building code that is fully compliant with the AAB’s charge!! Moreover, “this re-write of the code strives to achieve substantial equivalency with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, which will create a safe harbor with respect to lawsuits brought under the [Federal] ADA by creating one code book that ensures compliance with both state and federal requirements. More specific changes include: language changes to the variance process (Section 4); changes to definitions (Section 5); changes to existing reach ranges (Section 6); addition of more specific regulations regarding surface flatness and the use of pavers, paving stones and bricks (Section 7); clarification about scope of work at existing sidewalks (Section 9); reduction in number for requirement of van accessible parking spaces (Section 15); change to requirements to handrail extensions at the bottom of a stair flight (Section 16); addition of “family toilet room/unisex toilet room” requirement (Section 18); clarifying and additional language for grab bars (Section 18); additional language and clarification added, including but not limited to bed heights, vanities, balconies, and requirements for roll-in showers (Section 33); change of Group 1, Group 2A, and Group 2B dwelling units to be respectively changed to “Type B”, “Type A” and “Accessible Dwellings”; and change in sink depth requirements for multiple dwellings.

The AAB will be accepting written comments via mail or email until July 1, 2018. Comments can be emailed to Executive Director Thomas Hopkins at Thomas.Hopkins@state.ma.us. Copies of the proposed new regulations can be found below. A redlined set of the proposed regulations showing proposed changes can be found  here

Monthly BBRS Meeting Adopts HBRAMA-Proposed Changes to State Building Code

The monthly meeting of the Mass. Board of Building Regulations and Standards was held on June 5. Of particular note is that a Code Change proposal submitted by the HBRAMA regarding the “Solar Ready” provisions of the Building Code was unanimously adopted. The Code change eliminates the section of the proposed provision which requires that 40 amps be left reserved on the main electrical service panel and labelled “For Future Solar Electric.” Solar installers supported this change because it is unnecessary for them to tie their systems into the electrical panel, as they often connect to the electrical service line on the exterior of the home. For many new homes, removal of this section eliminates the expense of having to upgrade the electrical service, or in some cases, adding a costly transformer. For more information, see the June 5, 2018 agenda here

Thank You to FY 2018 HBRAMA Officers  

Thanks to our leadership, this year has been a watershed year for our Association, as we continue to be the recognized voice of the housing industry in the Commonwealth. We have also accomplished much internally with a number of important changes spearheaded by President Gary Campbell who has left his footprint on a number of very significant changes. From our leadership retreat, to amendments to our Association Bylaws, to the appointing of our new Executive Director Joe Landers, to the reorganization of our committees, to the engagement of Linda King and her excellent organization at The Center for Association Management, Inc. (CAMI), to establishing the HBRAMA as a leader in the housing industry, we want to truly thank our officers for FY 2018 who have dedicated so much time to your Association and who have brought our Association to a new level. 

Thank you, President Gary Campbell, President-Elect Hunter Marosits, First Vice President Matthew Anderson, Vice President Emerson Clause III, Treasurer Ted Steinhilber, Secretary Robin Ward and Past President Scott Colwell, for dedicating your time and efforts to help each one us in the homebuilding industry. Thanks to this group’s leadership, your concerns have continued to be heard, and positive momentum continues to build with the Administration and Legislature on the many issues facing our industry. A special thanks to outgoing President Gary Campbell for his leadership and tireless efforts in keeping the Association moving in a positive direction, both internally with Association reorganization efforts, and with our position externally throughout Massachusetts.

Lastly, we look forward to incoming President-Elect Hunter Marosits’ Installation event at the Great Horse Country Club in Hampden, MA on June 19, and we know that the Association will continue to excel in the capable hands and leadership of Hunter. 
Other News of Note

HBRAMA Builder’s Lobby Day Held on June 7

On June 7, the HBRAMA held its first Builder’s Lobby Day at the State House. Approximately two dozen of our members armed with important legislative information, traveled throughout the State House to meet their State Senators, State Representatives and/or their staff to communicate important legislative issues facing the homebuilding industry. Thanks to President Campbell, as well as Ben Fierro and Patricia Lynch, for organizing and assisting with this successful inaugural event. 
We would like to thank our volunteer members who take the time to serve on a subcommittee, testify before legislative committee, meet with individual legislators, meet with agency leaders, or who otherwise contribute their time to the many issues facing our industry.  We particularly thank our Subcommittee Chairs for their tremendous work, leadership and dedication to the Association, including: 
  • Jeffrey Brem, P.E., Meisner Brem Corp., Chair, Wetlands and Water Resources Subcommittee;
  • Mark Kablack, Esq., M.A. Kablack & Associates, P.C., Chair, Zoning and Chapter 40B Subcommittee;
  • Emerson Claus III, Allegiance Construction & Development LLC, Chair, Energy and Building Codes Subcommittee; and,
  • Mark Leff, SVP, Salem Five, Chair, Natural Gas Subcommittee. 

We also thank other Members who are always there for us over the years, including:  Andrew Crane of A. Crane Construction; Russ Leonard of Leonard Electric ; Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates ; Brian Lussier of Comfort Homes; Mike Duffany of Duffany Builders; Lillian Montalto of Lillian Montalto Signature Properties; Marc Ginsburg of Mark P. Ginsburg & Sons, and many others who play a significant role in keeping our Association active and   effective. We also thank our lobbyists, Ben Fierro, Esq., and Patricia Lynch, Esq., of Lynch & Fierro, P.C. for the extraordinary efforts on behalf of our Association, and whose voices continue to be one of the most effective voices on Beacon Hill.

We also welcome new volunteers who do not have to be an expert in any one area, but who might be willing to learn and participate in one of the many Association efforts.  To find out how you might participate, please contact our State Executive Officer, Joe Landers, at jlanders@hbrama.com, or by phone at 617-773-3305, or GAC Chair, John Smolak at jsmolak@ smolakvaughan.com.  Volunteers are the lifeblood of our Association, so we are counting on you for your continued support. 

Many thanks to our volunteers working for your association. Without your efforts, much of the progress we have made this year would not have been possible.  We look forward to seeing you at President-Elect Hunter Marosits’ Installation event at the Great Horse Country Club in Hampden, MA on June 19.
Last Call to Register for the
Annual Installation and Awards Banquet

You don't want to miss this important State event.

Plan now to attend the Annual HBRAMA Installation & Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, June 19th, as Hunter Marosits of the Home Builders Association of Western Massachusetts is installed as the President for the 2018-2019 fiscal year along with the rest of the State Officers. 

For more information and to register, contact the Home Builders Association of Western Mass at info@hbrawm.com or call 413-733-3126.
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