April 2020
Governor Baker Extends the Validity of State Permits

Responding once again to the needs of the residential and commercial construction industries, Governor Baker issued an Executive Order on March 26, 2020, to suspend relevant permitting deadlines and extends the validity of certain state permits and approvals which were valid as of March 10, 2020 until the expiration of the state of emergency, and the expiration date of such permits or approvals are tolled during the state of emergency.

The governor’s order applies to any permit, certificate, license, certification, determination, variance, waiver, state building permit, or any other determination of rights concerning the use, development, or rehabilitation of real property or improvements thereon, issue by any agency, board, bureau, department, office, committee, division within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs or the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

The order also provides that no approval shall be constructively granted, approved or denied, due to the failure of a state permitting agency to act within the time required by statute, rule or regulation; provided, however, that the running of the applicable time period shall resume 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency. The Emergency Order can be found here .

Legislature Enacts Bill to Address Local Permits and Hearings
The Massachusetts House and Senate approved legislation last evening, April 2, 2020, to address the impact on petitions for special permits, variances and the like for which public hearings before local boards and commissions had commenced prior to Governor Baker’s Emergency Order of March 10.
Local boards and commissions were concerned that if they are unable to safely and effectively conduct public hearings, such petitions would be constructively approved because of a board's inability to meet the statutory deadlines for action. HBRAMA acknowledged that concern as expressed to it by the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), but believed it was essential that individuals, builders and developers still be able to file petitions, and that petitions be acted upon within a reasonable period of time after the expiration of the state of emergency.

Accordingly, the language contained in H. 4598, An Act to address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19 , strikes the appropriate balance between the legitimate concerns of local government and the real estate development community, especially homebuilders. That language was drafted by a team of experienced lawyers from both the HBRAMA and NAIOP Massachusetts and vetted and revised by the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association.

It was then transmitted to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, where minor revisions were made. HBRAMA, NAIOP Massachusetts, the MMA and the MMLA all had the opportunity to review, comment and approve those changes. The final language was included in a bill filed by the governor.

The following is a summary of its major provisions of interest to the members of the HBRAMA:

  • Permit Tolling: No permit is automatically granted, approved, or denied because a local permitting authority does not act within a time period required by law. Any permit that is currently valid will not lapse or expire during the state of emergency and suspends any time limitation on such permits during the emergency.

  • Applications: Allows applications for permits to be filed electronically.

  • Hearings: Suspends any requirement that a hearing on a permit application be held within a certain period of time until 45 days after the end of the state of emergency.

  • Failure to Commence Work: A permit granting authority may not revoke or modify a permit where the permit holder fails as a result of the state of emergency to exercise or otherwise commence work pursuant to the permit or where such work commenced on or before March 10, 2020 but has stopped as a result of the state of emergency. This prohibition on a permit granting authority revoking or modifying a permit applies for as long as the state of emergency is in effect and for a period of 60 days following the termination of the state of emergency. A permit holder is entitled to a further extension of reasonable length to exercise or commence work at the discretion of the permit granting authority for good cause shown.

  • Building Permits: Clarifies that nothing in the law precludes or prohibits a permit granting authority from issuing decisions on permit applications for which duly held public hearings or meetings have been held, or precludes or prohibits any building commissioner, inspector of buildings, or other permit granting official as the case may be, from issuing permits, including but not limited to demolition or building permits.

HBRAMA is grateful for the prompt action taken by Governor Baker and the Legislature. A copy of H. 4598 can be found here .

Permit Extension Act
HBRAMA is currently lobbying with NAIOP Massachusetts for passage of a permit extension similar to the Permit Extension Act that was enacted during the Credit Crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession. That extraordinary legislation (Section 173 of Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2010) extended the term of nearly every state or local permit related to real estate development for an additional two years.

NAHB Releases Jobsite Safety and Recordkeeping Guidance for Coronavirus
The National Association of Home Builders is a leading member of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), which has provided a detailed plan to outline the steps that every employer and employee can take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The plan describes how to prevent worker exposure to coronavirus, protective measures to be taken on the jobsite, personal protective equipment and work practice controls to be used, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and OSHA guidance on what to do if a worker becomes sick, including recordkeeping requirements. This safety guidance is structured so it can be downloaded, customized, and distributed or displayed to workers. HBRAMA members can find the guidance at the website here .

Corona Aid Relief and Economic Security
Congress recently approved a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes several provisions to help small businesses and those engaged in the housing industry.

Among the bill’s provisions are two special lending programs that will be administered by the Small Business Administration:
  1. Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and;
  2. An expansion of the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) Paycheck Protection Program lending facility.

NAHB explains how the programs in the CARES ACT works. Click here .
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