Published: 2/3/2022 8:42:18 AM
Modified: 02/03/2022 08:40:48
BOSTON — Eight bills that would allow individual municipalities to add a new fee to certain real estate transactions have been put forward by one Legislative Committee while another is taking more time to decide on a proposal that would allow cities and municipalities to add a take such step without first obtaining Beacon Hill’s consent.
By Wednesday’s deadline for most committees to act on bills, the housing committee had introduced an executive order that extended its window of opportunity to 9 certain housing transactions to generate revenue to maintain affordable housing and build new housing finance.
The rate of fees and any exemptions would be determined locally, and the bills (H 1377, S 868) provide that the new fees will only apply to transactions priced above the statewide or statewide median single family home price.
While the decision could bottle the bills for three more months, Rep. Mike Connolly, who tabled the House version and is a member of the Housing Committee, said he saw the extension as an “encouraging sign”.
“I am grateful that we have the opportunity to continue the conversation and try to reach a consensus on this,” he said.
Connolly, a Cambridge Democrat, said he sees momentum behind the idea of transfer fees, as Boston Mayor Michelle Wu filed a home rule petition this week that would allow her city to impose a fee on sales of Raising $2 million or more and a large employer Mass General Brigham earlier this month expressed his support for the bills filed by Connolly and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.
“I think the momentum is a product of the ongoing emergency for affordable housing, and I’m aware of the unique trajectory of this legislature,” Connolly told the news service. “As the legislature began, the real focus of housing advocacy was to stop evictions and foreclosures, in a way that these immediate concerns about COVID housing really occupied much of our breadth and advocacy attention dominated.”
Just over a year into the biennial session, Connolly said there was now “a chance to focus more on the regular agenda” although pandemic response activities continue.
“These underlying housing cost issues have not gone away,” he said.
High costs in Massachusetts can weigh on renters and can be a barrier to home ownership for many.
Amid a shortage of housing stock, the state’s median home selling price exceeded $500,000 in 2021, the Warren Group reported Tuesday. The new annual mean of $510,000 represents an increase of more than 14 percent over 2020.
The Connolly/Comerford bills are supported by a collection of community organizations, planning agencies and other groups, the Local Option for Housing Affordability Coalition, which also backs a handful of bills submitted by individual communities where local officials have already supported proposed transfer fees .
“We look forward to continuing to work with legislators on this extremely important issue. Conducting this session for communities from Nantucket to Boston to western Massachusetts is an important action,” Nantucket Housing Director Tucker Holland said in a statement offered by the coalition.
Bills showing transfer fees in Somerville (H 3938), Provincetown (H 3966), Concord (S 2437), Boston (H 2942), Arlington (H 4295), Cambridge (H 4282), Nantucket (H 4201) and Chatham (H 4060) all received favorable reports from the finance committee and introduced them into the legislative process.
A positive report does not guarantee that a law will be passed or even make it to the vote. Similarly, the Housing Committee’s May 9 extension decision is not set in stone as a final deadline for action on its bills, as committees may request further extensions and lawmakers may choose to include guidelines as appendices to other vehicles, including the annual state budget , to advance.